The race to the Artic
Three years after Russian divers thrust a rust-proof flag into the seabed below the North Pole, the country’s Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, will attend the Arctic Forum in Moscow today.
Putin wants to stake Russia’s claim in the increasingly frantic battle for control of the Arctic’s resources.
Ironically the more the ice melts through climate change the more the region is opened up for oil and gas exploration.
While Russia counts for the bulk of Arctic land, seven other states have land in Arctic territory: Canada, Denmark, the United States, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Finland.
Of these tive nations– Russia, Canada, Denmark, Norway and the US – are all claiming jurisdiction over parts of the region.
And the reason is simple: it could contain as much as a quarter of the world’s undiscovered reserves of oil and gas.
In July this year the US Geological Survey estimated that the amount of “undiscovered, technically recoverable” oil north of the Arctic Circle was more than double the amount that had been previously found in the Arctic.
It added that the Arctic contained more than three times as much undiscovered gas as oil, most of which was in the Russian Arctic.
No wonder the Russians are excited.
So the battle is heating up: Russia, Canada and Denmark have all said they will file claims to the UN over an undersea mountain range called the Lomonosov Ridge, an area which some Russian scientists say could hold 75 billion barrels of oil.
Russia is arguing the ridge is an underwater extension of its continental shelves.
Alexander Bedritsky, the Russian president’s adviser on climate change, said Russia would file its claim to the UN within the next two or three years. He said he believed the Russians had a “strong chance” of their bid being approved.
However Canada and Denmark are also readying claims and Canada clashed with Russia last week over the ridge.
Canada is likely submit to the UN around 2013 and has said it is confident of its case.
Denmark plans to put forward its details by the end of 2014.
Last week, Russia signed a treaty with Norway, which ended their 40-year dispute over the borders in the Barents Sea and Arctic Ocean.
Russian Arctic expert Lev Voronkov said the experience of the Cold War proved the need to work together.
“No one problem of contemporary Arctic can be resolved by one country alone. So that’s why I think that we are doomed to co-operate in the Arctic. And military confrontation especially is completely counterproductive.”
But in the Arctic rush, the nations have forgotten that burning all this new oil and gas is also completely counterproductive…
As the Independent newspaper today argues in an editorial, in a rather forlorn way: “it is even more to be hoped that a spirit of co-operation and respect for the environment will somehow manage to prevail over the potentially destructive scramble for resources.”
Somehow I doubt it…