Handbook of the Politics of the Arctic
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Handbook of the Politics of the Arctic

Edited by Leif Christian Jensen and Geir Hønneland

The Arctic has again become one of the leading issues on the international foreign policy agenda, in a manner unseen since the Cold War. Drawing on the perspectives of geo-politics and international law, this Handbook offers fresh insights and perspectives on the most pressing issues, grouped under the headings of political ascendancy, climate and environmental issues, resources and energy, and the response and policies of affected countries.
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Chapter 11: The seaward limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles in the Arctic Ocean: legal framework and state practice

Øystein Jensen


Climate change and the assumption that a significant proportion of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas deposits lie beneath the Arctic seabed have turned the Arctic into a region of considerable geopolitical interest. Natural conditions aside, the region is also attracting attention because of an ongoing legal process. With the exception of the United States, all coastal states bordering the Arctic Ocean are party to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (the LOS Convention). The LOS Convention stipulates that a coastal state which is a party to the Convention, and which intends to establish the outer limits of its continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea is measured, shall submit the particulars concerning such outer limits to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (the Commission) no later than ten years after the entry into force of the LOS Convention for that state. As of mid-December 2013, the Commission has processed and made final recommendations on one submission related to the Arctic Ocean: the submission filed by Norway in 2006. Three other coastal states are, however, currently preparing submissions (Canada, Denmark/Greenland) or resubmissions (the Russian Federation) to the Commission, all expected to be lodged in the course of 2013 and 2014. This chapter is about the establishment of continental shelf limits beyond 200 nautical miles (nm) in the Arctic Ocean, focusing on the legal framework of the LOS Convention.

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