Arctic Yearbook 2014 - Page 384

384 Arctic Yearbook 2014 The Policy Document The Foreword to ‘Adapting to Change’ begins the presentation of Arctic issues with climate change, but quickly segues to the new commercial opportunities arising. As regards the British national starting-point, a careful balance is drawn. The UK is not an Arctic state, but does claim to be the Arctic’s ‘nearest neighbour’ – since the northern tip of the Shetland Isles falls only 400 kilometres short of the Arctic Circle. It respects ‘the sovereign right of the Arctic States to exercise jurisdiction over their territory’, and the interests of all people living in the Arctic: but it has a claim to be involved firstly in the light of its own national interests and competences (including possible ‘leadership’ in some fields), and secondly because ‘what happens in the Arctic has a global impact’. Overall, the document commits the UK to work ‘with international partners to balance the needs of human development with environmental protection’. It confirms that the principles and actions laid down will be binding on ‘the whole of Government’ in the UK. (Later, it is explained that the document will be open to review with no fixed timetable, and is designed to encourage public debate.) The rest of the 33-page paper falls into four main sections. Its introductory part comprises a sketch of what is happening in the present-day Arctic and a chapter on ‘the UK’s approach’. The former covers the obvious ground on climate change and emergent commercial possibilities, but includes some interesting nuances, stressing for example that the Arctic has been linked with the world both by trade and by the effects of pollution since Roman times, and that fossil-fuel exploitation, fishing and tourism have already been expanding there since the 1960s. Current changes are driven substantially by pollution from outside the Arctic but in turn can affect nonArctic regions through climatic feedback effects, new energy and rare earth supplies, new shipping routes and further growth in tourism. These points are clearly designed to bolster the legitimacy of a non-Arctic state’s involvement, and recall arguments used lately by Chinese representatives among others.25 Further, the document stresses that the Arctic is not a homogeneous region and contains many different sets of climatic and social conditions – perhaps an indirect way of relativizing the issue of indigenous peoples. Finally, this scene-setting section recommends an Arctic information website provided by British academic institutions for secondary schools.26 The UK’s policy ‘vision’ is summarized thus: The UK will work towards an Arctic that is safe and secure; well governed in conjunction with indigenous peoples and in line with international law; where policies are developed on the basis of sound science with full regard to the environment; and where only responsible development takes place. More details are provided in sections sub-titled ‘respect’, ‘leadership’ and ‘cooperation’. The first of these again states the UK’s respect for the rights of the Arctic States, the rights of local peoples, and the environment (in that order), but again emphasizes that the Arctic is far from a ‘pristine wilderness’. Environment and development need not form a dichotomy if good ‘stewardship’ is exercised, ‘while providing opportunities for growth and prosperity’. Under ‘leadership’, the Arctic States are once more accorded the first responsibility for peaceful and well-balanced development in the Arctic; but the UK lays a claim