ID:19 Building a path through the new Arctic in the age of melt-down, plastic litter and social media

21 February 2023 | 16:00 - 18:00 (GMT+1) 

Open Session - HYBRID


Room: Hörsaal 3


Session Conveners: Hyoung Chul Shin (Korea Polar Research Institute, Republic of Korea); Malgorzata Gosia Smieszek (University of Tromsø, Norway); Cana Itchuaqiya (Noorvik Native Community, Virginia Tech, United States)


Session Description

Characterizing the Arctic under ever growing human influence and the associated challenges is an onerous task. It certainly is concurrent, manifold and complicated. This session aims to identify a range of factors shaping the contemporary Arctic in ways distinct from the past. Rapid decline of sea ice has fundamentally enhanced accessibility across the Arctic while decreasing accessibility within the Arctic. This changed the whole setting in terms of natural transformation, environmental management needs, geopolitical dynamics and the conditions and constraints for economic opportunities.

Human presence in the Arctic has already increased and the footprints are building up, taking their toll on the environment and the inhabitants. The Arctic environment is now subject to a variety of impacts from pollution, of which the sources are often global, coming from beyond the Arctic. Complicating this, novel digital technologies are becoming available so that the Arctic access does not need to be solely physical nor relational. The local and Indigenous Arctic communities are not yet entirely free from undue, often colonial, influences and facing new and perennial challenges stemming from unmet energy demand to pandemic. They are also going through cultural changes, interacting with the rest of the world, not always in conflict-free ways. Last but not the least, recent political tension has undermined and significantly impaired the long tradition of cooperation in the region that is often called ‘high North and low tension’.

Examining these changes through different lenses of field and theoretical researchers, policy makers, and the Arctic local and Indigenous communities is a generative endeavor. Multi-layered and cooperative approach should be a basis to determine what kind of concerted efforts would serve the sustainability of the new Arctic. In this session, decoding the ways the new Arctic is brought about and exploring what knowledge is needed to embrace these changes are our double targets. Natural and social scientists and any stakeholders from the Arctic Circle and beyond are invited to engage with one another individually and collectively.



  • unfold_moreHow the new Arctic shapes Arctic policies: different approaches to policy formation by national perspectives

    Yeong Jun Choi1; Hyoung Chul Shin1; Jihoon Jeong1; Chaerin Jung1; Wonsang Seo1
    1Korea Polar Research Institute


    Arctic policies by most governments typically include the scientific understanding of the changing Arctic, environmental conservation, and sustainable regional development in their repertoire. Depending on how each state interprets the new Arctic, there are small and subtle, yet notable differences in the relevant government policies. For the Arctic states, economic development and infrastructure investment are clearly part of the targets and objectives of the governmental plan and policies. Observer states explore and pursue economic opportunities, but with prudence guarded with emphasis on the sustainability and international cooperation. The local and indigenous communities are crucial elements of the plan of the Arctic states, while the plan of non-Arctic governments refers to and respects the indispensable right of indigenous communities in their plan, possibly as one of the justifications of their presence in the Arctic. At the implementing project level, increasingly more weight is being placed upon fostering of future generations, measures to address new and emerging environmental threats, and use of novel and digital technologies. These trends distinctively appear during the last decade, and such moves are shared by both Arctic and non-Arctic observer states. We provide case studies in our presentation. Future studies may expand upon these cases and address differing and common approaches and their outcomes.

  • unfold_moreThe EU Green Deal and the Arctic: Towards Sustainability?

    Nengye Liu
    Singapore Management University


    The European Union, as the world's third largest economic bloc, only after the United States and China, is a serious player in the Arctic. The EU has published four Arctic strategies in recent years, the latested one being adopted on the 13 October 2021. It has pledeged to build a sustainable Arctic "not just for the Arctic itself, but for the EU and the whole world". Concurrently, the EU approved its very ambitious, and to large extent legally binding EU Green Deal in 2020, with aim to achieve several concrete sustainability goals, such as net zero greenhouse gas emission in 2050. This paper therefore examine the EU Green Deal and its implications for the Arctic in a new era. It first looks into how the EU Green Deal could support and implement the EU's Arctic Strategy. Then, it turns to the EU's domestic targets on net zero GHG emission and Biodiveristy Strategy 2030, and explores the potential of "Brussels Effect" of the EU Green Deal in the Arctic. That is, how high environmental standards in the EU might impact the Arctic States, because of their strong trade and investment relationship with the EU. The paper concludes with some suggestions and predictions regarding the EU's role in a "new" era of the Arctic, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

  • unfold_morePresentation synthesis report on the environmental impacts of polar research and logistics

    Pjotr Elshout
    European Polar Board


    This report, written by an action group of the European Polar Board, explores how to limit the environmental impacts of polar research as much as possible. The aim of this synthesis report is to gather and synthesise existing data and knowledge of the impact of scientific research on the Arctic and Antarctic region. The report identifies and links various forms of environmental impacts to specific types of scientific polar research and logistics. It also identifies local environmental legal frameworks, best practices and recommendations. During this session, the contents of the report will be presented and explained.

  • unfold_moreScenarios of Destination and Transit Shipping in the Euro-Asian Arctic until 2050

    Nikita Strelkovskii1; Elena Rovenskaya1; Dmitry Erokhin1
    1International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)


    Increasing demand for natural resources and their abundance in the Euro-Asian Arctic stimulate the development of new extraction projects in polar regions. The recent sea ice retreat and the latest climate projections make various stakeholders consider the Euro-Asian Arctic waters as a prospective transportation route. At the same time, there are increasing calls for protection and conservation of the fragile environment of the Euro-Asian Arctic. This setting is further complicated by often competing interests of various states, including non-Arctic, commercial actors, and local and indigenous populations. All these features make foresight for the Euro-Asian Arctic a challenging task. In the presented paper, we discuss the findings of a scenario-building project involving Arctic experts from several countries dedicated to the future of destination and transit shipping in the Euro-Asian Arctic. First, we identified the key global and regional factors which influence the shipping operations in the Euro-Asian Arctic. Each of these factors may develop in several distinctly different directions in the future. The multitude of combinations of such plausible developments of factors delineates the uncertainty space for shipping in the Euro-Asian Arctic in the future. Based on these combinations and using the pluralistic backcasting methodology, we developed five scenarios that cover this uncertainty space: (i) Global Resource Base, (ii) Global Transportation Route, (iii) Abandoned Land, (iv) Sanctuary, and (v) Transpolar Shortcut. Each scenario constitutes a narrative describing a unique combination of the key factors developments and their implications for destination and transit shipping in the Euro-Asian Arctic.

  • unfold_moreReading the faces of the Arctic Anthropocene: perceptions in media and academic literature

    Hyoung Chul Shin1; Jihoon Jeong1; Chaerin Jung1; Miyeon Kim1
    1Korea Polar Research Institute


    The Arctic in the Anthropocene is a vocabulary that rightfully describes the contemporary Arctic and a range of issues around it. We compiled and inspected academic articles and media reports that contain these two and other related words. The manifestation of the Arctic Anthropocene could be categorized in three principal aspects; changing sea/land scape, transforming way of life, newly developing functions/roles in the global system. These three key pillars can harbor and represent many different key words under each heading respectively. The key words also relate to each other across the categories. We attempted to construct matrices of the key words in order to describe the critical phenomena and to characterize the significant linkages in this ever evolving, heavily human impacted, new Arctic. This will help us determine what the decisive issues are, how they are viewed in the media and academic writings, and what options there are to address the new Arctic challenges.

  • unfold_moreRethinking Arctic science cooperation from March 2022 and onward: Stock-taking to seek ways forward

    Jihoon Jeong1; Hyoung Chul Shin1; Chaerin Jung1
    1Korea Polar Research Institute


    Russia's military action on Ukraine in February 2022 had a major impact in the Arctic and scientific cooperation is no exception. The seven members of the Arctic Council other than Russia promptly introduced a pause in all the Council activities. Since then, international science cooperation with Russia, at least at the level of government Arctic programs, has been halted for most countries. Russian stretch along the Arctic coastline being 53% of the whole and 2 million Arctic inhabitants including the Indigenous Peoples place Russia simply as a destined Arctic partner for all others. It is, therefore, more than warranted to review these new geopolitical settings and their implications for the Arctic science and in particular its international cooperation. This paper aims to summarize what Arctic science cooperation without Russia has entailed for (a) individual scientists, (b) national Arctic research programs, and (c) the international observation networks and multi-national projects over the past six months with some samples provided from Korean cases. Following such stock-taking, possible future conditions and options to better manage the current state of lull and the resultant gaps are discussed from different levels and perspectives.

  • unfold_moreBuilding a path to the Arctic we’d like to see

    Henry Huntington
    Ocean Conservancy


    Building a path to the new Arctic requires a vision for the Arctic future we’d like. Is the Arctic awaiting exploitation, for minerals, petroleum, fish, shipping, and more, and pollution such as plastics and contaminants? Or can the Arctic continue to sustain Indigenous cultures and ecological abundance as well as its role in regulating global climate? Recent international actions have taken steps towards this latter vision. The Central Arctic Ocean (CAO) Fisheries Agreement, for example, places ecosystem understanding ahead of commercial gain. The IMO’s Polar Code and the creation of shipping lanes in the Bering Strait recognize the need for caution and care in the governance of vessel traffic. To date, however, such efforts have been piecemeal. While affirming Indigenous self-determination, experiences around the world provide a grim reminder of the human and natural consequences of pursuing short-term economic gains, as well as the potential for greater economic dependence even as political independence increases. We propose an alternative pathway in the Arctic. Building on the underlying logic of the CAO Fisheries Agreement, we call for a similar commitment to knowledge-based caution in other areas of potential human activity in the Arctic. Such an approach can build on Indigenous values of humility, respect for nature, and sharing with others including future generations. The “new Arctic” creates opportunities. Which opportunities will we choose to pursue?

  • unfold_moreState Practices and the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf: Observations from other regions and lessons for the Arctic

    Mathieu Landriault1; Pauline Pic2; Frédéric Lasserre2
    1ENAP; 2Université Laval


    Continental shelves are codified in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. The convention entails that states must gather data in order to document the limits of their respective shelves. The Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS) will then weigh the technical evidence and adopt recommendations. These recommendations are not binding and do not produce obligations. Hence, the legitimacy of and confidence in the CLCS are pivotal for these recommendations to be perceived as sound and just. This communication precisely aims at surveying how states reacted to the issuance of recommendations by the CLCS. We then analysed state reactions to the recommendations adopted until now, and offer a typology. We also focus on the cases where opposition or criticisms were expressed to understand the main sources of discontent. These observations will then help draw observations as to the potential for cooperation and conflict when it comes to the continental shelf contentions present in the Arctic region.