The legal, political, social, economic and environmental consequences of climate change for the Arctic are multiple and intertwined. Owing to the potential benefits derived from an accessible Arctic region, the attention of the Arctic coastal states – Canada, Denmark (Greenland), the Russian Federation, the United States (Alaska), and Norway (Spitsbergen) – is increasingly shifting towards the area, resulting in the development of national Arctic policies. Since the U.S. Geological Survey in 2008 estimated that up to a third of the world’s undiscovered and technically recoverable hydrocarbon reserves may be located north of the Arctic Circle, littoral states’ interests have further intensified.
With regard to the existing international treaties, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (LOSC) has been referred to by many as an effective and powerful driver for acquiring scientific data about the Arctic continental shelf and seafloor and for stimulating new forms of scientific and diplomatic cooperation in the decreasingly icy and dangerous seascape of the Arctic Ocean.
This paper first gives a brief overview of the Law of the Sea Convention and describes the various maritime zones that may be claimed under LOSC with a particular emphasis on the rights coastal states may exercise therein. The paper then goes on to discuss how LOSC deals with multiple overlapping claims and disagreements over extended continental shelf rights. The subsequent part seeks to conclude whether LOSC is adequate for resolving disputes stemming from maritime boundary delimitation by examining the conduct of the five Arctic coastal states through the lens of the LOSC. Finally, the last section studies the applicability of a multilateral agreement similar to the Antarctic Treaty System in Arctic context.
Balazs Ujvari is pursuing an MA degree in International Studies at Aarhus University. His research field is focused on global governance and comparative regional integration studies.