Achilles tendon Arctic (3/3):
How we can protect the Arctic – also so that it can protect us
Hauklandstranda in the Lofoten – the arctic paradise in the north of Norway
In our three-part series “Arctic Achilles Tendon”, our senior expert on marine issues and biodiversity Prof. Dr. Dr. H. c. Karin Lochte and managing partner and marine biologist Dr. Alexis Katechakis explain why the Arctic is so important (part 1), what economic temptations lie in developing the Arctic, which act as sustainable opportunities (part 2) and how we can protect the Arctic – also so that it can protect us.
Alexis, the Arctic is the Achilles tendon of our planet. If we cut it by damaging the Arctic through seismic testing, trawling, oil drilling and dumping, we risk untold problems for humanity. Are there initiatives that are concerned with protecting the Arctic?
Unlike Antarctica, for which there has been an international agreement since 1959 through the Antarctic Treaty, which stipulates that the uninhabited Antarctica between 60 and 90 degrees south latitude is reserved exclusively for peaceful use, especially scientific research, there is no protection of this kind for the equally vulnerable polar region in the north.
However, most international maritime and Arctic organizations already assume that exploitation will continue. They try to regulate the load instead of stopping it. But we cannot afford any Arctic overload.
The Parvati Foundation is committed to ending exploitation. While the subsistence fishing and cultural activities on which coastal communities depend are still permitted, the proposed treaty ends all commercial exploitation and militarization in the marine waters north of the Arctic Circle. By eliminating the possibility of extracting oil and gas from the Arctic seabed, the organization aims to prevent an estimated 148 billion tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere and thereby accelerate the global transition away from fossil fuels.
In recognition of the great risk an unprotected Arctic Ocean poses to humanity, over 500 scientists – including 26 Nobel Prize winners to date – have signed the "Scientists' Call for MAPS (Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary)". Excerpt from the call:
„As scientists, we work to discover the truth about the world around us. When what we see is a grave warning on a global scale, we have a moral imperative to speak up. (…) We must emphasize that our collective survival is at stake, and that partial measures cannot succeed. While subsistence fishing and cultural activity can continue, all commercial exploitation of the Arctic Ocean must end – not just in the international waters known as the High Seas, but including all coastlines within the Arctic Circle, because the majority of exploitation takes place outside the High Seas. As Arctic ice vanishes and the global consequences multiply, there is still a window to avert total catastrophe. However, an immediate response is required, on a time scale measured in weeks and months rather than years. This is achieved through MAPS.“
The Parvati Foundation calls on all world leaders to sign the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary Treaty (MAPS) to stop all exploitation and militarization of the Arctic Ocean north of the Arctic Circle.
What else can companies and investors do?
In addition to signing and raising awareness of the petition, companies and investors can act more proactively:
It is difficult to be the only company in an industry to agree to forego economic opportunities in the Arctic. However, a few words of hope and a reference to SDG 17 – Partnerships to achieve the goals – are appropriate here: When companies from an entire industry come together, agree to no longer operate in the Arctic and form alliances à la “Transport industry for arctic free”, no one is disadvantaged.
In its guide to financing a sustainable blue economy, the UN – based on Canada's Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. A-12) – for example advises financial institutions (investors, insurers) not to finance companies that use or transport heavy oil in the Arctic ocean. There are still no recommendations for the financial sector for the other dangers that arise from entrepreneurial activity in the Arctic. There is an enormous need for action here and great opportunities to position oneself as financial institution.