Marine Policy, Vol 31, No 4, 2007, pp. 402-408.
The Law of the Sea Convention constrains regional environmental regimes, especially with respect to navigation beyond the territorial sea. Existing soft-law institutions, notably the Arctic Council, have already strengthened environmental governance in the region by (1) improving the knowledge base; (2) preparing practical guidance on risk reduction; (3) highlighting in broader regulatory fora the Arctic dimension of problems like long-range transported hazardous compounds; and (4) supporting the capacity of Arctic states to implement existing commitments. None of those functions would be much enhanced by a legally binding Arctic environmental regime. The political impediments to reaching circumpolar agreement on a single comprehensive legal regime would suggest a flexible approach to norm building that seeks productive interplay with existing institutions.