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Protecting the arctic environment' - speech by the Norwegian Minister of Government Administration and Reform

- Do we lack a legal order for the Arctic Ocean? No, we have the overall framework, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This is the comprehensive multilateral regime that applies for the Arctic Ocean, stated Norwegian Minister of Nordic Co-operation Ms Heidi Grande Røys at the 'Common Concern for the Arctic' conference in Greenland. The purpose of the event is to encourage stronger international commitment to the Arctic and closer co-operation within the Arctic Region on climate change and globalisation.
 

- Do we lack a legal order for the Arctic Ocean? No, we have the overall framework, the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This is the comprehensive multilateral regime that applies for the Arctic Ocean, stated Norwegian Minister of Nordic Co-operation Ms Heidi Grande Røys at the 'Common Concern for the Arctic' conference in Greenland. The purpose of the event is to encourage stronger international commitment to the Arctic and closer co-operation within the Arctic Region on climate change and globalisation.
 
Excellences, ladies and gentlemen, friends;
 
It’s a great pleasure to see so many highly comptent participants this conference. I very much enjoyed yesterday’s interventions.
 
The sea ice in the Arctic is melting – rapidly – while we’re sitting here. There are reasons to be concerned.
 
The melting of the sea ice and the Greenland ice-cap will lead to increased shipping and other activity, in waters that may seasonally be navigable but affected by dangerous drift ice. This is posing serious hazards.
 
We need a legal framework and we need policies. We will not be able to address future environmental challenges without a rule-based response and without concerted, effective action that builds on the best available scientific data and a responsible and precautionary approach. This is the basis of the Norwegian Government’s policies.
 
There have been questions about the legal framework for the Arctic. Do we lack a legal order for the Arctic Ocean?
 
My answer is very clear: No. We have the overall framework – what I would call the rules of the game. In short: we are talking about the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This is the comprehensive multilateral regime that applies for the Arctic Ocean.
 
In our view, today’s challenges may have more to do with a lack of implementation of existing rules, rather than lack of rules.
 
Does the Law of the Sea Convention contain rules on ice-covered waters? Yes, it does. Have they been implemented nationally? Only to a very limited extent.
 
Does the Convention allows for the adoption by the IMO of maritime routes in difficult or vulnerable waters? Yes, it does. When the need arises, this is something we should discuss with all our partners in the IMO. The legal framework is already there.
 
Does the Convention allow coastal states to adopt non-discriminatory measures, including the establishment of protected areas, within economic zones for various purposes? Yes, it does.
 
Does this Convention, and other international agreements, contain rules designed to promote scientific research, environmental protection and other measures relevant to the Arctic Ocean? Yes, they do. Have these been fully implemented? Not really.
 
We need a fresh look at how we can ensure full implementation of existing instruments and fill a good legal framework with political content. This is the real focus of my Government. We need wise, sound and sustainable policies for this highly vulnerable region.
 
Climate change and environmental issues are on the top of the agenda in the Nordic Council of Ministers. A number of issues have to be addressed in international fora and through close cooperation with other key partners. These include in particular the members and observers of the Arctic Council and the European Union. We also need cooperation in a number of other fora, including the IMO as already mentioned.
 
The Arctic Council is a key forum for discussion and formulation of Arctic policies in several areas.
 
Increased economic activities will result in increased maritime transportation in the High North. We must therefore strengthen maritime safety measures and oil spill prevention, preparedness and control. Several Arctic Council projects adresses these issues.
 
We have a responsibility for protecting the environment. Let us work together and do that by implementing relevant international legislation. I see many challenges and opportunities due to effects of climate change, and I look forward to listening to the panel – let’s welcome them!