Polar Oceans Governance in an Era of Environmental Change
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Polar Oceans Governance in an Era of Environmental Change

Edited by Tim Stephens and David L. VanderZwaag

This timely book provides a cutting-edge assessment of how the dynamic ocean regions at the highest latitudes on Earth are being managed in an era of unprecedented environmental change. The Arctic and Southern Oceans are experiencing transformative environmental change as a result of climate change and ocean acidification. As areas of unparalleled environmental, cultural and scientific value, they are crucibles for testing how integrated, eco-systemic governance frameworks can be developed to meet and address volatile environmental, political and economic challenges.
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Chapter 16: The Arctic Council and the future of Arctic Ocean governance: edging forward in a sea of governance challenges

David L. VanderZwaag


Evolving from the 1991 Arctic Environmental Protection Strategy (AEPS), largely focused on addressing pollutants and environmental protection in the Arctic, the Arctic Council was established as a regional cooperation forum pursuant to a Declaration adopted in Ottawa, September 1996. The Declaration set out an institutional structure largely intact today. The Council consists of eight member states, is innovative by including indigenous organizations as permanent participants, and includes observers. The Council is charged with promoting cooperation on common Arctic issues, including issues of sustainable development, but security matters are excluded from the scope of the Council's mandate. The original four working groups under the AEPS were continued under the auspices of the Arctic Council, with two additional working groups subsequently added, namely the Sustainable Development Working Group (SDWG)and the Arctic Contaminants Action Program (ACAP). The Council has depended on voluntary financial and human resource contributions from member states for carrying out projects. With increasing thinning and loss of sea ice linked to climate changeand projected growth of commercial developments on numerous fronts including oil and gas, shipping, tourism and mining, the adequacy of the Arctic Council has come under increasing scrutiny. Whether a 'soft law' regional forum largely dedicated to monitoring the Arctic environment and undertaking projects and assessments is up to the task of meeting the mounting challenges posed by climate change and globalization has been questioned by various scholars and NGOs.

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