Canada’s Arctic Policy Promising
(TORONTO, ON) – WWF views today’s Arctic policy announcement regarding Canada’s priorities for the Far North as a promising development.
The policy reflects WWF’s position that climate change in the Arctic has brought a need for new binding international rules on issues such as shipping and oil and gas development. We hope that Canada’s efforts to make the Arctic Council a more powerful tool for setting binding Arctic policies are successful.
WWF also notes with approval the commitment to not only use ecosystem-based management in Canada’s Arctic, but to also promote that management system to other Arctic countries.
Finally, we note the commitment to addressing the pressing problem of climate change in the Arctic, and hope to see more detail on how Canada will do its share to ensure that powerful climate feedbacks from the Arctic do not further destabilize global climate systems.
More information on WWF’s recommendations regarding Arctic governance is available in our International Governance and Regulation of the Marine Arctic report, published in April 2010.
Canada’s Arctic Foreign Policy
Important excerpts from the policy:
Canada does not accept the premise that the Arctic requires a fundamentally new governance structure or legal framework. Nor does Canada accept that the Arctic nation states are unable to appropriately manage the North as it undergoes fundamental change.
Regional solutions, supported by robust domestic legislation in Arctic states, will be critical. Canada will work in concert with other Arctic nations through the Arctic Council1 (the primary forum for collaboration among the eight Arctic states), with the five Arctic Ocean coastal states on issues of particular relevance to the Arctic Ocean, and bilaterally with key Arctic partners, particularly the United States.
First, Canada will take steps to create the appropriate international conditions for sustainable development in the Arctic, complementing domestic measures to support economic development. This involves understanding the opportunities and challenges of Arctic energy and resource development and developing regulations, guidelines and standards that are informed by Arctic science and research, including traditional knowledge. In no area is this more critical than in oil and gas development.
As an emerging clean energy superpower, Canada will continue to support the responsible and sustainable development of oil and gas in the North. Along with the rest of the international community, we have witnessed the terrible environmental, social and economic impacts of the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico….Canadians and our Arctic neighbours can be assured that no drilling will occur in Canada’s deep Beaufort Sea until at least 2014.
The Arctic Council, with significant Canadian participation, updated its Arctic Offshore Oil and Gas Guidelines in 2009. These guidelines recommend standards, technical and environmental best practices, management policy and regulatory controls for Arctic offshore oil and gas operations. Canada will act on the request from the Arctic Council that all states apply these guidelines as minimum standards throughout the Arctic and will encourage others to do so as well.
Internationally, we will act in the following four ways: promote an ecosystem-based management approach with our Arctic neighbours and others; contribute to and support international efforts to address climate change in the Arctic; enhance efforts on other pressing international issues, including pursuing and strengthening international standards; and strengthen Arctic science and the legacy of International Polar Year.
Canada will be finalizing a Policy Framework for Canada’s National Network of Marine Protected Areas that will guide marine protected area establishment, including the five marine ecoregions found in the Arctic.
Canada will play a proactive role as the Council moves forward to encourage the implementation of guidelines, the development of “best practices” and, where appropriate, the negotiation of policy instruments. The current negotiation of a regional search and rescue agreement (the first ever attempt at a binding instrument under the rubric of the Arctic Council) will serve as an important test case and will inform the scope for future policy endeavours.
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