Global greed vs global warming

At a gathering of Arctic countries in Norway, politicians agreed that action is needed over global warming. But while politicians want to do more to protect the region’s environment they have yet to divide its riches.

“The world is now on a pathway that exceeds the worst case projections made a few years ago. That is most visible in the Arctic,” Nobel Peace Prize laureate Al Gore said.

But melting polar ice has opened up opportunities too, including new sea routes and more access to potentially vast oil, gas and mineral wealth. Under international law, countries ringing the Arctic can extend their current economic zones around their shores, which is what Russia is trying to do.

Two years ago its explorers looked for proof to back Russia’s claim that it rightfully owns an area believed to hold billions of tons of oil and gas as well as gold and diamonds. A flag was planted under the North Pole causing much international stir.

But Russia is keen to defuse tensions.

“The practical activities of the Arctic Council, the strengthening of which we favor, are debunking the forecasts to the effect that the Arctic is becoming a potential source of conflicts. It was never so, neither will it ever be,” Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said.

And everyone wants a piece of the Arctic pie: the U.S., Canada, Denmark and Norway have their eyes set on the region.

Norway has already got UN backing for its claims to vast chunks of the Arctic seabed. Russia hopes to follow suit – something Norway doesn’t see as a problem.

“The world plays by the rules, including the other countries that have claims in the north. So we see it as a region of low tension,” Norwegian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bjorn Jahnsen said.

But it’s not just the Arctic powers trying to dig into the region’s potential treasures.

NATO has said it might need a military presence there as the Arctic gold rush begins. Moscow, on the contrary, has no plans to increase troops in the Arctic.