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Diplomacy on IceEnergy and the Environment in the Arctic and Antarctic$
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Rebecca Pincus and Saleem H. Ali

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780300205169

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300205169.001.0001

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Arctic Melting Tests the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

Arctic Melting Tests the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea

(p.128) 7. Arctic Melting Tests the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
Diplomacy on Ice

Asim Zia

Ilan Kelman

Michael H. Glantz

Yale University Press

During the twenty-first century, relatively higher warming is projected to occur in the Arctic as compared with average global projections. This might, as hyped by the media, spur a race among the surrounding Arctic States (Russia, the US, Canada, Norway, Denmark and Greenland) to maximize their property rights for mining oil and natural gas reserves. Under international law, Arctic states are limited to an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 200 nautical miles adjacent to their coasts. Upon ratification of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), a country has a ten-year period to make claims to an extended continental shelf which, if validated, gives it exclusive rights to resources on or below the seabed of that extended shelf area. This chapter provides an overview of sampled boundary demarcation disputes in the Arctic that demonstrate the prospects and limits of UNCLOS in resolving territorial sovereignty conflicts. Two alternate policy regime options are also discussed: (i) modifications in UNCLOS to incorporate environmental security and indigenous rights concerns; and (ii) establishment of a transnational Arctic protected area or biosphere reserve. One key for any approach is to ensure that Arctic indigenous peoples fully and fairly contribute to any decisions.

Keywords:   climate change, oil and natural gas mining, UNCLOS, exclusive economic zones, indigenous rights, biosphere reserves

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