The White House and the Canadian government have released a new joint plan for how the two countries will go about regulating potential drilling, mining and other such energy endeavors in the Arctic — a decision-making process that will now use “indigenous science and traditional knowledge” to understand how to mitigate the effects of global warming.
President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced their new Arctic strategy as part of an overall plan for both countries to meet the pledges they made to the United Nations to fight global warming.
Along with regulating methane from oil and gas drilling, U.S. and Canadian officials will now strive to “embrace the opportunities and to confront the challenges in the changing Arctic.” This includes incorporating “indigenous science” into decisions on whether or not development in the Arctic is compatible with fighting global warming.
“Canada and the U.S. are committed to collaborating with Indigenous and Arctic governments, leaders, and communities to more broadly and respectfully include Indigenous science and traditional knowledge into decision making, including in environmental assessments, resource management, and advancing our understanding of climate change and how best to manage its effects,” according to a White House fact-sheet.
“We confirm that for commercial activities in the Arctic – including shipping, fishing, and oil and gas exploration and development – we will set a world-class standard by basing development decisions and operations on scientific evidence,” according to the fact-sheet. “Further, commercial activities will occur only when the highest safety and environmental standards are met, including national and global climate and environmental goals, and Indigenous rights and agreements. Canada and the U.S. will work to develop this year a shared and science-based standard for considering the life-cycle impacts of commercial activities in the Arctic.”
Obama and Trudeau’s plan to limit their countries’ impact on Arctic ecosystems comes as Russia has been increasing its presence in the North Pole. Russia has been moving forward with drilling projects in the region despite low oil prices, and the Kremlin has stepped up its military presence there as well.
“We’re not even in the same league as Russia right now,” Coast Guard Commandant Paul Zukunft told Newsweek last year. “We’re not playing in this game at all.”
Russia has been re-opening Cold War-era Arctic military bases, and China — which isn’t even an Arctic nation — plans on having two operational icebreakers by the end of this year.
As The Daily Caller News Foundation’s Jonah Bennett reported in July: “Russia has flooded its northern coast with new projects, including 10 Arctic search-and-rescue stations, 10 air-defense radar stations, and 27 operational icebreakers.” The U.S. only has two icebreakers, which are decades old.
Energy Department advisors have also warned against sitting idly by while Russia develops oil and natural gas deposits in the North Pole.
“Internationally, other countries such as Russia are moving forward with increased Arctic economic development during this time of change,” the National Petroleum Council reported last year. “Russia is drilling new exploration wells in the Kara and Pechora Seas and is expanding its naval and transportation fleet. While China does not have Arctic territory, it is investing millions of dollars in Arctic research, infrastructure, and natural resource development.”
The Arctic is estimated to hold 15 percent of the world’s oil reserves and 30 percent of its gas reserves.
“To remain globally competitive and to be positioned to provide global leadership and influence in the Arctic, the United States should facilitate exploration in the offshore Alaskan Arctic now,” the NPC warned.
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