This chapter investigates new international legislation aimed at protecting the fragile polar environment. Climate change and the melting of the sea ice have brought international attention to the Arctic Ocean. The climate change in Arctic has both global and regional environmental implications. Much of the attention has been on the opportunities for new and extended uses of previously inaccessible marine areas. Particularly the prospect of reducing sailing distance between Europe to Asia by the use of the Arctic shipping routes has raised considerable interest. However, shipping through these waters are challenging of several reasons including legal, unavailability of infrastructure, climate and ice conditions. The negotiations of the Polar Code in the IMO come as a recognition of a need of additional and mandatory regulations of shipping in these waters for safety and environmental protection purposes. In this chapter, the safety and pollution prevention regulations of the Polar Code are investigated in order to assess whether the challenges have been addressed. The Arctic coastal States have a particular interest in ensuring safe and environmentally friendly shipping in their waters. The chapter investigates their legislation and whether it may assist in implementing the Polar Code regulations. Of particular interest is the legislation of Canada and Russia, the two major Arctic coastal States. Their legislation of foreign flagged vessels is based on the Arctic exception of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (Article 234). The entry into force of the Polar Code in 2017 raises questions on the relationship between the Polar Code and national legislation.
Elise Johansen and Tore Henriksen
The Arctic is probably the region in the world most affected by climate change. This is providing an opportunity for new and extended human activities such as fishing further north in previously ice-covered waters, the possibility of navigating through sea routes that are ice-free for longer periods of the year, the prospect of extracting hydrocarbon in areas previously covered by ice, and increased interest from the tourist industry in remote and pristine destinations. This chapter argues that it is now crucial to ensure that the negative impacts of climate change are made as small as possible in the Arctic, and that new uses of the region do not lead to additional stressors on the Arctic environment. A legal framework that enables this must be flexible and responsive. The authors note that the Arctic Council has and will continue to play an important role in improving the knowledge basis for governance and for helping set the policy agenda. Marine protected areas can be important tools in developing protective measures, but these are not frequently used in the Arctic, since they may impinge in high seas freedoms. States, and particularly the IMO, have been key actors in developing responses through the Polar Code on shipping. The Code is shown to be adaptive, but the process by which decisions on navigation have been reached suggests that decisions are unduly politicized, rather than being based on clear scientific evidence. This may be detrimental to the Arctic environment in the longer term.