Arctic Sovereignty and Security in a Climate-changing World

By Alec Crawford, Arthur J. Hanson, David Runnalls on November 25, 2008

Arctic sovereignty is a complicated business. Promises of vast resources and fabled shipping lanes set free by a melting ice pack have triggered a competition for land and influence across the region. Climate change has made it clear that the Arctic environmental transformation poses some very real security concerns for Canada. There is a danger, however, that these perceived security threats, the shared expectations of what lies beneath the Arctic ice and the race to define our northern sovereignty could overshadow some of the current and expected environmental challenges to be faced by the Arctic ecosystem and the communities that depend upon it.

This short report focuses on the important northern issues that Canada should be focusing on beyond those currently grabbing the headlines. In addition to increasing its defence spending in the North, Canada, to guarantee its Arctic sovereignty and the health of its northern ecosystem, must:

  • Engage indigenous and northern communities, NGOs, international organizations and countries outside of the Arctic Council in the debate and decision-making on Arctic sovereignty and security;

  • Take the lead on environmental stewardship in the North;

  • Invest more money in Arctic research and the capacity to turn research into meaningful policy;

  • Go beyond the Ilulissat Declaration to cement cooperation on a number of issues with the other Arctic stakeholders; and

  • Update its Northern Foreign Policy.

Report details

IISD, 2008