In Tromsø U.S. Sec. of State weighs in on Arctic resources, shipping
“A big agenda that has to be addressed in a very deliberative but intensive way”
The United States sent its powerful envoy, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, to the Arctic June 2, where she called for more cooperation on Arctic issues — and also staked out the growing U.S. interest in the Arctic Ocean’s rich resources.
In Tromsø, Norway, the Arctic city slated for the future home of the Arctic Council secretariat and a new polar research centre, Clinton talked about “a big agenda that has to be addressed in a very deliberative but intensive way.”
That’s who owns the potentially huge oil, natural gas, and mineral reserves believed to lie under the Arctic Ocean, which lie outside the 200 nautical-mile economic zone of the U.S, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Russia, and who controls Arctic shipping lanes.
The United Nations Convention on the law of the sea, usually called by its acronym UNCLOS, provides the basis for the settlement of disputes over those waters and claims to offshore resources.
Clinton said the Obama Administration is pushing hard to ratify the UNCLOS.
Under the UNCLOS, nations with Arctic Ocean coastlines — like Canada, Russia, the United States, Denmark and Norway — can claim offshore territory beyond 200-nautical mile limited if they can prove by 2013 that underwater geology shows the seabed is actually an extension of their land base, the continental shelf.
“We abide by the international law that undergirds the convention, but we think the United States should be a member, because the convention sets down the rules of the road that protect freedom of navigation, provide maritime security, serve the interests of every nation that relies on sea lanes for commerce and trade, and also sets the framework for exploration for the natural resources that may be present in the Arctic,” she said.
Clinton praised Norway for joining and giving money to the U.S-driven Climate and Clean Air Coalition, which wants to reduce the production of short-lived climate pollutants, such as soot, which make up between 30 and 40 percent of the climate-warming greenhouse gas emissions.
During her 24-hour visit to Tromsø, Clinton boarded Norway’s Helmer Hanssen research ship to send “a very clear message “ for the world to tackle climate change.
“Although it seems like such an overwhelming task for humanity to take the steps necessary to reduce and mitigate the impact of global warming and climate change, there are things every one of us can do, and we should get about the business of doing it,” she said.
Asked if she supported nations outside the Arctic to join the Arctic Council, Clinton said that talks are underway to see how other nations “very far” from the Arctic can “learn more about the Arctic” and “to set some standards that we would like to see everyone follow.”
A new Arctic Council agreement on managing oil spills and responses to other emergencies is in the works, Clinton said.