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Arctic : new frontiers Findings and proposals for change
1. Would the effects of climate change in the Arctic turn the region into a New Wild West?
New shipping routes, fishing campaigns on waters formerly covered with ice, wild spe- cies traffic, uncontrolled mining extraction or forestry cuts…all treasures and beauties of the Arctic are now at high risks.
As it has always been in drastic historical shifts, there are cowboys and Indians, police officers and thieves….
What will be the equilibrium…or imbalances…that will emerge in the Arctic?
All scientists are watching with great concern the evolution of climate and biodiversity, amplified by the impact of these new human activities. Convergent and increasingly alarming publications tell us that climate change in the Arctic has pro- bably reached a point of irreversibility. Time is short now; humankind has no solution but to initiate as quickly as possible mitigation and adaptation measures to meet the challenges.
Strategy, Defense and security national and regional authorities in the region are trying to organize and update their organizations without necessarily deploying appropriate means with respect to such drastic changes and hazards. Geopolitical ten- sions reappear, as do the conflicts between short-term economic interests and medium- term visions for the territories. What will come from this? We are at a crossroads.
2. Habitats are becoming more and more vulnerable – nature has already initiated an irreversible transition that we can and should mitigate.
Ruptures and scars are emerging in the Arctic. Beyond the spectacular craters formed in the growing permafrost, waterways and bodies of groundwater whose vitality is increasingly compromised, it is the core characteristics of plant, animal and human habitats that are now being affected.
Whether terrestrial or marine, large migratory animals can no longer repeat the journeys that have been used to taking until now. This concerning situation diso- rients them, and prompts new patterns of behaviour which disrupt the ecosystems, and puts their survival at risk, thus making the survival of their species at risk.
The Arctic Circle, once a white continent dotted with a few green and blue nuggets, is now dominated by different shade and colors: brown, grey, green and blue. Is this good news? Certainly not. This lung of our planet, which contributes both to the regulation of our climate via marine streams, and is a melting pot of life on land and in the sea, is as essential as it is unknown. We have to better care it, love it, know it, and save it.
Empowering the Arctic to move from vulnerability to resilience will not only help to preserve its vitality, but also to protect us.
3. Indigenous peoples, who lived in symbiosis with the environment, have moved towards a western way of life.
A few points of reference structured past lives of the people of the Arctic: autonomy, strong identity and cultural affirmation between communities, local cooperation and the collective organization of society, and a permanent sense of interaction between human and nature. The development of extractive industries, the mechanisation of transport, the arrival of modern comfort and the revolution in communications jeo- pardized these codes.
Intergenerational education has been replaced by standardized boarding schools and distance education, miles away from the family and local community. Housing has become individual, energy-intensive, car and mass consumption an ine- vitable standard of life. Tobacco and alcohol flow freely, tourists do not accomplish a perilous journey any more. Now their shadow crosses that of the natives without any real-life meeting ever taking place. The slow degradation of waste, the ever-increa- sing need for energy, space and mining resources, and multiple and growing forms of pollution leave an increasingly limited space for preserved lifestyles., in this once pristine landscape.
Formal education and access to knowledge have improved. Access to wes- tern medicine and science has improved life expectancy and undermined traditional knowledge.
4. Our proposals for G7 Biarritz
There is an emergency to save the Arctic. Not only does it matters only to Arctic people, but to humankind as a whole. There are no simple solutions, but we have to hear, care and act now. It is about cooperating with the people of the Arctic, ensuring that they can choose their common destiny, and live serenely on an unburden land and sea. It is also hard time to reaffirm, by respecting them, by protecting us from increased avidity that would burden their resources, that our choices in society do not put their way of life, their vitality, their culture and their intangible heritage at risk.
Revitalize and evolve the Arctic Commission so that it becomes an Arctic Ocean Committee with the means and objectives of resilience to meet common and diffe- rentiated challenges.
An immediate and important lever for action in the Arctic, which on the G7 can be a pioneer, is the security and regulation of maritime traffic in the Arctic. The aim is to prevent this conti- nent-ocean from being left to predatory fishing and poaching, and to accelerate the global energy transition rather than focusing on unreasonable exploitation of the region’s oil and mining resources.
Set up a «tollgate motorway», operating on a principle similar to the Panama Canal, between Vladivostok and Hammerfest, available only to the most recent and less emit- ting fleet of double hull container ships.
Classify immediately new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) on Arctic Seas under national juridictions, and put in place an action plan to be announced by June 2020 at the latest, at the IUCN World Conservation Summitt in Marseille. This action plan can target classifying 30% of the Arctic maritime surface as MPAs by 1 July 2025.
Other areas for improvement concern preservation of the cultural heritage, identity and way of life of populations, development of new forms of cooperation beyond superficial and distant tourism.
En concertation avec les organisations internationales, notamment OMI (Organisation Maritime Internationale) et OIT (Organisation Internationale du Tourisme), mettre en place avant mi-2021 une charte du tourisme arctique responsable, et s’assurer d’un engagement volontaire pionnier au G7 Biarritz d’opérateurs pionniers et de person- nalités représentatives.
Update fisheries regulations of all G7 Member States and the European Union so that newly water areas regularly unfrozen as an effect of climate change benefit from the same fisheries regulations than adjacent seas, and allocate them quotas so that to main- tain the annual fish quantity taken from the Arctic at its 2017 level.
Generalize the «0 plastic in the sea by 2025» commitment to all G7 Biarritz Member States, as France did as per inter-ministerial committee on November 2018, in Dunkirk.
In the next 24 months, agree on a tangible action plan to limit the effects of plastic pollution, micro-pollutants and endocrine disrupters on the Arctic, and put in place effective remediation tools in the area.
All these proposals are worth being implemented right now, and this is possible to do so…it is up to anybody of us – and specifically G7 leaders – to find appropriate momentum and commitments. Civil societies are requiring some changes, business and local requirements too. Our duty, in the continuation of the Photojournalist ward, is to raise awareness of the emergency to act and the methods of action that we consider to be top priorities, as described above..
If we continue to warm the climate at +1.5°C by 2100, there is a 1% chance that the Arctic will be ice free each summer. If we keep global warming at +2.0°C by 2100, there is a 10% chance that the Arctic will be ice free each summer. And to keep global warming down to 1.5°C, we need to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 47% before 2030, by initiating most of our behavioral changes in the next 3 years.
Despite its unsurpassed commitments to eliminate fossil fuels, Norway confirmed in early 2018 the award of 13 exploration permits (including Chevron, CoconoPhilipps, Lukoil, Statoil, etc.) in the Barents Sea. These permits are now challenged by lawsuits actions.
During the second half of the 20th century, the Barents Sea was used as a nuclear dumping area, without precaution and without monitoring. From now on, and since mid-2018, it has also been home to floating nuclear power plants.
On December 20, 2017, the U.S. Congress passed a law authorizing oil and gas deve- lopment in the Arctic National Wildlife Park in Alaska.
On June 28,2018, Antiquity review mentioned that several Native Aerican cemete- ries in the Arctic, some of which originated in villages inhabited since the 6th century, have now disappeared.
On May 1, 2017, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Species in Canada (COSEWIC) counted 62 Arctic species at risk of extinction.
In September 2018, Japan called for the resumption of commercial whaling, beyond the so-called scientific fishing quotas it already has, and targeted the polar, Arctic and
Now, fisheries are taking over the Arctic areas left free by the melting ice without quota nor species regulation plan. They are seeking immediate profit in performing non-selective nor sustainable cod campaigns with industrial vessels, thus jeopardizing the survival of high-quality diversified juvenile feedstock, putting at high risk the pris- tine biodiversity of Arctic.