The social and human rights implications of climate change, adaptation and mitigation have received relatively little attention. Yet the human costs of climate change directly threaten fundamental human rights. Equity issues also arise in the climate change context because of its disproportionate impact on already vulnerable people, Indigenous peoples and communities. This article commences with a review of human rights and sustainable development in the specific context of the rights of Indigenous Peoples. It does not undertake a comprehensive study of all aspects of Indigenous environmental governance in the Arctic. Rather, it seeks to explore the wider principles and international standards that are potentially applicable to the social and human rights dimensions of sustainable development in the Arctic in the context of the impacts of climate change.
This essay provides an Icelandic perspective on the opening of the Arctic Ocean. It provides an overview of the historic evolution of Arctic shipping divided into three distinct stages: The initial stage was driven by search for alternative shipping routes during the expansionist era of modern Europe. The Soviet stage was driven by Soviet strategic interests during the Cold War. The contemporary stage is driven by new technologies, resource development in the Arctic and tourism. A second section focuses on Iceland’s reaction to climate change linking it to Iceland’s role in the Arctic Council, and the need for action and adaptation. The final section connects the two first sections and highlights Iceland’s potential role in future trans-Arctic shipping. It heralds the beginning of the fourth stage of the evolution of Arctic shipping with the imminent opening of the Arctic Ocean for intercontinental shipping, This stage will be driven by the need for increased connectivity in a globalized economy, decreasing sea ice, capacity constraints of current shipping routes and security concerns
Natural areas and resources form the basis for many regional economies in the Arctic. Natural conditions, including climate, have been considered stable on human timescales and taken as starting points in regional development work – until recently. During the past few years the notion of a changing climate with various ecological and socio-economic impacts has made its way also to regional development strategies. Despite the common perception of climate change as completely devastating for the whole Arctic, the effects can be regionally differentiated.
This article discusses regional development related strategic planning as a forum and tool for addressing climate change. This is carried out by empirically examining the emergence of climate change as an important trend or factor in the development programmes of one region in the Arctic, Finnish Lapland, mid-1990s onwards. The review sets a background for the ways how climate change is thought to affect Lapland’s economy and society in the future, as presented in the region’s recently published Climate Change Strategy 2030. Climate change, nowadays regarded as an important trend affecting the region’s future, is expected to bring along new opportunities for Lapland and change the strategic position of the region to a more favourable one also in wider political and economic sense.
Regional development related strategic planning can, in some politicoadministrational cultures such as in Finland, serve well as a context for climate change adaptation, but the task to promote regional development can lead to less emphasis on global environmental concern and more on ensuring the auspicious development in the region.
What will take place in the Arctic in the next decade will have consequences for us all, as the changing of the “Albedo effect” is altering the global climate, disrupting many equilibria both in the ecosystem and in the social sphere. Changes in the Arctic will not stay in the Arctic, but will affect the rest of the planet. The need to exploit resources, the emergence of new actors in the Arctic and the discovery of abundant oil, gas, mineral and renewable energy resources mean that we have to literally rethink and reconstruct the “Arctic” as a concept. Huge promises are made, but big questions are also raised about how we are to rethink and regulate our “blue planet.” A new regulatory framework is thus inevitable. This article deals with the social aspects of the climate change’s effects and the understanding of human adaptation to climate change by explaining how the problem of exploration and exploitation of oil and gas and their use by indigenous people are strictly interconnected with Social Impact Assessment (SIA) and environmental protection. The article focuses on the social dimension of climate change coupled with business development of oil and gas firms in the Arctic with Greenland as a case study to illustrate opportunities and tensions affecting the indigenous Greenlandic people. Some conclusions are drawn with the formulation of recommendations on the urgent need for direct participation of Arctic indigenous people in the decision-making policy creation on environmental protection measures and culture and advice on how to implement such recommendations. A solution to implement such recommendation would be to develop an interdisciplinary research programme to be implemented through an interdisciplinary research centre susceptible to be turned into an international organization after a certain period of working activity at the academic level.
The scientific assessments of the Arctic Council (AC) have been widely regarded as the most effective products of the AC. Yet, so far comparatively little scholarly attention has been given to this primary area of the Council’s work. This paper examines the most recent assessment work within the Arctic Council. In order to do this, we build on the literature on global environmental assessments to analyze whether this work exhibits design features and is carried out in a way that enhances the potential for AC assessments to be effective. We understand the effectiveness of assessments to influence decision and policy-making in the Arctic Council itself, but we also look beyond its structures. This paper focuses on four case studies: Arctic Biodiversity Assessment (ABA), Arctic Human Development Report-II (ADHR-II), Arctic Resilience Report/Arctic Resilience Assessment (ARR/ARA) and Adaptation Actions for a Changing Arctic (AACA). Whereas detailed examination of such influence is at this point not possible due to either very short time from their completion (ABA, ADHR-II) or the fact that the projects are still ongoing (ARA, AACA), the analysis of those assessments through the lens of a series of their design features provides us with some guidance in relation to their expected effectiveness in bridging science with decision-making in the AC and beyond. The article finds that whereas different processes exhibit different individual characteristics, all the studied assessments rank from relatively high to very high in terms of how their design may affect their salience, credibility and legitimacy. However, their actual policy influence will depend first and foremost on the political will of those ordering the assessments and wielding decision-making power in the Arctic Council.