Recognizing that the circumpolar Arctic region is experiencing significant ecological change due to global climate change, the Aspen Institute convened a civil society Dialogue and Commission to consider the implications of this impending transformation for the region's inhabitants and resources. The Aspen Institute released a final report and recommendations of Commission, entitled "The Shared Future: A Report of the Aspen Institute Commission on Arctic Climate Change."
The report features a very special foreword by President Jimmy Carter and presents the Commission's recommendations, foremost of which is that governance in the Arctic marine environment should be sustained and strengthened by a new conservation and sustainable development plan based on using an ecosystem-based management approach.
The Commission believes marine spatial planning provides a workable method to begin implementation of ecosystem-based management. Governance of the Arctic can and should be strengthened through an inclusive and cooperative international approach that allows greater participation in information gathering and sharing, and decision-making, leading to better information policy choices and outcomes.
The report is issued under the auspices of the Aspen Institute and the members of the Aspen Institute Commission on Arctic Climate Change, with support from the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation.
The report presents the Commission's recommendations, foremost of which is that governance in the Arctic marine environment, which is determined by domestic and international laws and agreements, including the Law of the Sea, should be sustained and strengthen by a new conservation and sustainable development plan using an ecosystem-based management approach. The Commission believes marine spatial planning provides a workable method or approach to begin implementation of ecosystem-based management. According to the Commission, Arctic governance can and should be strengthened through an inclusive and cooperative international approach that allows greater participation in information gathering and sharing, and decision-making, leading to better informed policy choices and outcomes.
The Commission recognizes that this Aspen Dialogue has been a preliminary step toward a fuller discussion on the future of the Arctic marine environment. Its major discovery is that a more modern, holistic and integrating international plan is needed to sustainably steward and govern the Arctic marine environment. The Commission has made significant progress in understanding the needs and requirements for action to sustain the Arctic and realizes that in order to implement its recommendations the entire Arctic community must be engaged.
The Aspen Commission on Arctic Climate Change has identified the following initial Principles of Arctic Governance as forming the guiding foundation of its recommendations and the standards by which future governance and sustainable management of human activities in the Arctic marine environment should be measured. Specifically, governance and sustainable management of human activities in the Arctic marine environment should seek to:
- Optimize ecosystem resilience, integrity and productivity by maintaining food-web (trophic) structure and protecting and restoring biodiversity and available habitat.
- Maintain the full suite of Arctic ecosystem services to support human well-being on a continuing basis.
- Promote investment in scientific research and related infrastructure necessary to ensure sustainable development and environmental protection.
- Avoid exacerbating changes that may be difficult or impossible to reverse in temperature, sea-ice extent, pH, and other key physical, chemical and biological ecosystem parameters.
- Assess, monitor and manage multiple human activities using an integrated, adaptive, ecosystem-based management system that takes into account risks and cumulative and interacting effects.
- Apply ecosystem-based management processes based on science and traditional knowledge, particularly to new and expanded human activities which are subject to prior evaluation and analysis. Prudent measures to reduce or eliminate impacts are to be taken when there are reasonable grounds for concern that such activities, directly or indirectly, will bring about hazards to human health, harm living resources and ecosystems, damage amenities or interfere with other legitimate uses.
- Fully respect the rights, including human rights, of Arctic residents and Arctic indigenous peoples, and maximize participation in and transparency of decision-making for all interested stakeholders.
- Link global policy discussions to the need to conserve and manage Arctic ecosystems and dependent communities.
- Promote cooperation among Arctic states to arrive at appropriate standards for managing activities in the Arctic to meet the special conditions of the Arctic region, while promoting sustainable development.
- Inform, in a timely manner, national and international decision-makers as well as the public of the consequences of climate change impacts in the Arctic, and needed actions required to meet the above noted principles.
The Aspen Institute Commission on Arctic Climate Change believes that existing frameworks can be enhanced and new frameworks can be established to improve governance and strengthen resilience in the Arctic marine environment in response to climate change impacts and the need for adaptation readiness. The Commission developed its recommendations against the backdrop of at least three observable strategies currently discussed internationally to strengthen the Arctic Council; expand and strengthen the existing system of bilateral and multilateral agreements; and/or establish a new Framework Convention for Arctic governance.
Aspen Commission Recommendations
- Arctic governments should take immediate steps to begin developing an Arctic Marine Conservation and Sustainable Development Plan by 2012, in collaboration with civil society and other interested parties.
- Arctic governments, independently and collectively, should implement an integrated ecosystem-based management approach in the Arctic marine environment utilizing appropriate marine spatial planning, as well as regulatory rules and standards that address the special conditions of the Arctic region.
- In addition to an Arctic marine conservation and sustainable development plan, a number of specific actions should be initiated through the development of agreements or standards that foster consistent implementation among and across Arctic governments.
- An open-source Arctic network, focused on ecosystem-based management, should be developed through the Arctic Council and used to complement the existing system of national and international governance mechanisms in the Arctic.
- Arctic governments should call for a special diplomatic conference in 2012, which includes participation by Indigenous Peoples and the eight Arctic nations, to establish a timetable for designing and implementing the preceding recommendations.
- All Arctic residents, including Indigenous Peoples, should play a pivotal role in planning the future of the Arctic and should share in the benefits of its resources as well as responsibility for its sustainable future.
- An Arctic science program should be implemented and integrated as part of the Arctic Marine Conservation and Sustainable Development Plan using an open-source information network.
- The Commission urges that the Arctic Council be reinforced as an effective, multilateral organization for the region and that it be given the resources and a revised architecture to ensure that the planning, participation, management and accountability recommendations put forward in this report are implemented.
About the Aspen Institute
The Aspen Institute mission is twofold: to foster values-based leadership, encouraging individuals to reflect on the ideals and ideas that define a good society, and to provide a neutral and balanced venue for discussing and acting on critical issues.
The Institute is based in Washington, DC, Aspen, Colorado, and on the Wye River on Maryland's Eastern Shore and has an international network of partners. Further information.