16 December 2013

SHARES Debate: Protecting the Arctic area – a responsibility of the Netherlands?

On Monday 16 December 2013, the fourth SHARES Debate is organised in cooperation with SPUI25, an academic-cultural centre that offers a forum for among others lectures, debates and book presentations.

SHARES Debates are organised throughout the academic year to provide a platform for discussions with a broader (non-academic) audience on questions of shared responsibility. The upcoming debate is entitled: Protecting the Arctic area – a responsibility of the Netherlands?

The melting of the ice of the Arctic due to global warming has offered new economic opportunities for (coastal) states and businesses. Areas that until recently were covered in ice are now opening up, creating new navigational routes between Asia and Europe, enabling the exploitation of oil and gas resources that had been previously located in inaccessible areas. The Netherlands as well as Dutch companies are among those who want to capitalise on these new opportunities. The Netherlands’ policy framework concerning the Netherlands and the polar regions (Beleidskader Nederland en de Poolgebieden 2011-2015) addresses the importance of the Arctic area for the Dutch industry. Shell has already conducted some exploratory drillings in the Arctic area.

This increase in economic activities raises a fundamental question: who is responsible for the management, use and protection of the Arctic area? The new economic activities can pose significant risks to the fragile ecosystem of the Arctic. The international legal regime may not be fully adjusted for regulating the surge in economic activities. The Dutch policy framework (Beleidskader) describes the Arctic administrative system as a geographic and legal patchwork. In this situation, the question arises who decides what risks are acceptable and those which are not. Who has the obligation to ensure that the rules on nature protection are adequate and enforced in the event of a breach? The five coastal states (the United States, Canada, Russia, Norway and Denmark/Greenland) that exercise authority over most of the oil and gas resources play an important role. However, many other states have become involved in the discussion, amongst others China, Japan, South-Korea and indeed the Netherlands. In addition, non-governmental organisations such as Greenpeace and the World Wide Fund for Nature are increasingly interfering with the Arctic area, which leads to conflicts with the coastal states involved as well as multinationals.

In this complex situation, where different considerations are in tension with one another, the question is what is the role and responsibility of the Netherlands and Dutch companies? How will the Netherlands strike a balance between the economic interests and gains involved, and protecting the ecosystem of the Arctic? And what is the responsibility of Dutch companies such as Van Oord, Boskalis and Shell in this respect?

In this SHARES debate, three speakers will discuss the role and responsibility of the Netherlands concerning the management of the Arctic area.

The panel consists of:

  • René Lefeber, professor of International Environmental Law at the Amsterdam Centre for Environmental Law and Sustainability at the University of Amsterdam, and legal counsel at the International Law Division of the Directorate of Legal Affairs of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • Louwrens Hacquebord, professor of Arctic and Antarctic Studies at the University of Groningen, director of the Arctic Centre of the University of Groningen and the Willem Barentsz Pool Instituut, and council member of the International Arctic Science Committee.
  • Daniel Simons, legal counsel at Greenpeace International.
  • Chair: André Nollkaemper, professor of public international law at the University of Amsterdam and director of the SHARES project.

Please note that this SHARES Debate will take place in Dutch.

Registration is mandatory through SPUI25.

Further questions can be addressed to Iona Tjiong at: shares-fdr@uva.nl.


See here for a blog post on this topic.

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