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Geopolitics in the High North: Climate Change, Energy Development, and Environmental Protection

This FNI sub-project contributes to several work packages in the international GeoPolitics in the High North research programme. One work package examines the adequacy of the Arctic institutional architecture in face of pressing environmental challenges concerning climate change, long-range transport of hazardous waste, nuclear safety and regional oil and gas development. Another work package looks at the geopolitical significance of the energy resources in the High North, while a third discusses law of the sea and ocean governance in the Arctic Ocean.

On the Climate Change and Environmental Protection work package:

Global environmental change affects the Arctic with particular force, notably with respect to temperature change and bioaccumulation of pollutants that pose severe health threats. The ‘Arctic eight’ include two pivotal states in global climate politics, the USA and Russia. Moreover, China has recently applied for observer status in the Arctic Council, today a major institution for pinpointing Arctic consequences of global warming and for generating Arctic premises in broader policy debates on mitigation and adaptation.

This work package examines the adequacy of the Arctic institutional architecture and its interplay with broader institutions as a means of dealing with pressing environmental challenges. These challenges concern
i) climate change;
ii) long-range transport of hazardous waste;
iii) regional oil and gas development; and
iv) nuclear safety.

The assessment rests on three pillars:

One is to examine the interests major actors have in the Arctic region within these four issue areas, with emphasis on Norway, Russia, the EU, and the USA, attending also to the industry and civil-society groups that participate in interest definition. What are the patterns of common and competing interests in these issue areas and to what extent, if any, do the recent and upcoming changes in Russian and US administrations affect such patterns?

A second pillar evaluates the problem-solving adequacy of the activities that regional Arctic institutions specialise in. At present, the focus of those institutions rests on knowledge generation, soft-norm promulgation and to some extent capacity enhancement.

The third pillar builds on the other two and clarifies the political room for, and desirability of, modifying the division of labour between Arctic international institutions and broader organisations and decision-making venues in the four issue areas. Among the issues is the question of whether the framework the Law of the Sea Convention offers for Arctic governance needs region-specific contributions, beyond the soft-law approach that the Arctic Council has opted for. Throughout the studies, implications for Norwegian interests are discussed.

On the The Power of Energy work package:

This work package looks at petroleum extraction in the High North, where volumes might rise substantially in the course of the next decades. At the same time, increasing demand for energy worldwide, especially in developing economies, and threats to the stability and security of existing supplies of energy, make exploration of Arctic energy resources important. In focus here is the geopolitical significance of the energy resources in the High North, FNI's contribution focuses on oil company strategies and developments in Russia.

For more information, se the GeoPolitics in the High North programme website, (maintained by the programme coordinator, the Norwegian Institute for Defense Studies).

FNI project leader: Olav Schram Stokke

Project period: 2008-2013


Moe, Arild, 'Potential Arctic Oil and Gas Development: What Are Realistic Expectations?' In Oran Young, Jong Deog Kim and Yoon Hyung Kim (eds), The Arctic in World Affairs: A North Pacific Dialogue on Arctic Marine Issues. Seoul/Honolulu, Korea Maritime Institute/East-West Center, 2013, pp. 227-250.

Rottem, Svein Vigeland, 'The Arctic Council and the Search and Rescue Agreement: The case of Norway'. Polar Record, published online 13.05.2013, 9 pp.

Moe, Arild, 'Norway and Russia: Neighbours with Strong Interests in the Arctic'. In Hooman Peimani (ed), Energy Security and Geopolitics in the Arctic. Singapore, World Scientific Publishing, 2013, pp. 127-163.

Stokke, Olav Schram , 'Political Stability and Multi-Level Governance in the Arctic'. In P.A. Berkman and A.N. Vylegzhanin (eds), Environmental Security in the Arctic Ocean. Berlin, Springer, 2013, pp. 297-312.

Stokke, Olav Schram, 'Regime Interplay in Arctic Shipping Governance: Explaining Regional Niche Selection'. International Environmental Agreements: Politics, Law and Economics, Vol 13, No 1, 2013, pp. 65-85.

Stokke, Olav Schram, 'Norge, Kina og samspill i Arktis' ('Norway, China and Arctic Interplay'), Aftenposten, 01.02.2012. In Norwegian.

Stokke, Olav Schram, 'Environmental Security in the Arctic: The Case for Multi-Level Governance'. International Journal, Vol 64, No 4, 2011, pp. 835-848.

Stokke, Olav Schram, 'Interplay Management, Niche Selection, and Arctic Environmental Governance'. In Sebastian Oberthür and Olav Schram Stokke (eds), Managing Institutional Complexity: Regime Interplay and Global Environmental Change. Cambridge (USA), MIT Press, 2011, pp. 143-170.

Stokke, Olav Schram, 'En indre sirkel i Arktisk Råd?' ('An Inner Circle in the Arctic Council?'), Nordlys, 28.04.2010. In Norwegian.

Stokke, Olav Schram, 'Protecting the Arctic Environment: The Interplay of Global and Regional Regimes'. The Yearbook of Polar Law, Vol 1, 2009, pp. 349-370.

Moe, Arild, 'So Far the EU has Neither Arctic Territory Nor a Clear Role' (comments to article by Alyson Bailes)', Europe's World, 22 June 2009.

Stokke, Olav Schram, 'Arctic Environmental Governance: Are New Regimes Needed?', The Circle, No 1, 1 April 2009.

Many more publications at the GeoPolitics in the High North programme website.
 Related focal points of research:

   Arctic and Russian politics
   Law of the Sea and marine affairs
   Climate change

Project funding:

   Research Council of Norway (GEOPOLITIKK-NORD Programme)

 External cooperation partners:

   Norwegian Institute for Defense Studies
   Department of Political Science, University of Oslo
   Department of Sociology, Political Science and Community Planning, University of Tromsø
   Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California at Santa Barbara

 Recent media coverage:

'Her er den mest kontroversielle plattformen i Arktis' ('This is the Most Controversial Platform in the Arctic'), E24, 17.10.2013. In Norwegian.

'Hvem rydder op, når katastrofen rammer?' ('Who Cleans up the Arctic when Disaster Strikes?'), Information, 05.10.2013. In Danish.

'Granitsa v Barentsevom more: zhazhda nefti ni pri chyom' ('The Barents Sea Border Has Nothing to Do with Oil Thirst'), Neft' Rossii, 13.08.2013. In Russian.

'Oil hunger not reason for Barents treaty', BarentsObserver, 12.08.2013.

'Merkel til Oslo for å snakke om energi med Stoltenberg' ('Merkel to Oslo to Talk with Stoltenberg about Energy'), NRK, 20.02.2013. In Norwegian.

'Forsker på asiatisk interesse for Arktis' ('Research on Asian Interest in the Arctic'), RCN News, 13.02.2013. In Norwegian.

'- Russlands opptreden i Arktis blir misforstått' (- Russia's Behaviour in the Arctic Is Misunderstood'), RCN News, 08.02.2013. In Norwegian.

'Avblåser arktisk olje- og gassbonaza til havs' ('Cancels Arctic Offshore Oil and Gas Bonanza'), Teknisk Ukeblad, 28.01.2013. In Norwegian.

'Trafikken langs nordlig sjørute og norskekysten' ('Increased traffic on the Northern Sea Route and along the Norwegian coast'), NRK1 Morgennytt, 04.12.2012. In Norwegian

'Russerne leter etter olje ved Svalbard' ('Russians Exploring for Oil around Svalbard'), NRK, 07.02.2012. In Norwegian.

'Norway may shut China out of the Arctic Council - source', The Voice of Russia, 30.01.2012.

'Norge vil stenge Kina ute fra Arktisk Råd' ('Norway Wants to Shut China out from the Arctic Council'), Aftenposten, 25.01.2012. In Norwegian.

'International perspectives on the High North', GeoPolitics in the High North, 25.11.2011.

'Warmer Seas – New Challenges', AlphaGalileo, 18.05.2011.

'Varmere hav – nye utfordringer' ('A Warmer Ocean – New Challenges'),, 22.03.2011. In Norwegian.

'Utsetter bonanzaen i nord' ('Postpones Arctic Bonanza'), Mandag Morgen, 23.01.2011. In Norwegian.

'Primernye sosedi' ('Exemplary neighbours'),, 27.09.2010. In Russian.

'Will Arctic dispute stay out of military conflict?', Russia Today, 22.09.2010.

'Ryska framtidsplaner i Arktis' ('Russian Future Plans for the Arctic'), Hela Gotland, 06.05.2010. In Swedish.

'Rossiya prirosla arkticheskim shel'fom' ('Russia Has Grown with Its Continental Shelf'), BN.RU Gazeta, 30.04.2010. In Russian.

'Olje kan ha skapt enighet' ('Oil May Have Led to Agreement'), Dagsavisen, 28.04.2010. In Norwegian.

'Ros til Jonas og Jens' ('Jonas Gahr Støre and Jens Stoltenberg Praised'), Vestby Avis, 27.04.2010. In Norwegian.

'- Et mentalt gjennombrudd' ('A Mental Breakthrough'), Nettavisen, 27.04.2010. In Norwegian.

'– Et formidabelt gjennombrudd' ('A Veritable Breakthrough'), Adressavisen, 27.04.2010. In Norwegian.

'Tror på utbygging om 15 år' ('Believes in Petroleum Development in 15 Years'), Finnmark Dagblad, 27.04.2010. In Norwegian.

'– Det har vært en god dag på jobben' ('It's Been a Good Day at Work'), TV2, 27.04.2010. In Norwegian.

'Åpner for mulig olje-bonanza' ('Will Open up for a Possible Oil Bonanza'), Dagens Næringsliv, 27.04.2010. In Norwegian.

'Her er reaksjonene' ('These Are the Reactions'), Nordlys, 27.04.2010. In Norwegian.

'- Er trolig enorme gassressurser der' ('- The Areas Probably Contain Vast Gas Resources'), Dagbladet, 27.04.2010. In Norwegian.

'Støre avviser at Russland holdes utenfor i Arktis' ('Støre Denies Russia Is Being Kept Outside in the Arctic'), VG, 18.03.2010. In Norwegian.

'No scramble for the Arctic – yet', European Energy Review, 22.01.2010.

'Conflict Potential in the Arctic' (web radio), Swiss Radio Evening News "Echo der Zeit", 31 August 2009.

'Kholodnaya Voyna za Arktiku' ('A Cold War for the Arctic'), Neft' Rossii, No 3, 30 March 2009. In Russian.

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