Academic journal article European Journal of Sustainable Development

Looking beyond the Climate Change Convention to Attain Global Sustainability Targets

Academic journal article European Journal of Sustainable Development

Looking beyond the Climate Change Convention to Attain Global Sustainability Targets

Article excerpt

1.Our Planet's tryst with the Arctic

The idea of Arctic is larger than its geographical contours. As a region in a constant state of flux, the Arctic's climate change manifested in the disappearance of street signs warning on polar bears. The beautiful wilderness of Arctic was populated and heavily polluted even before climate change became a heated topic for debate among scientists and academics. As the Arctic warms and earth's albedo or reflectivity diminishes it leads to more absorption of sunlight, melting of glaciers, sea ice and rise in sea levels. The region is important to climate scientists as it regulates earth's temperature. Scientific modeling suggests that the Arctic may be ice-free by 2030. The significance of the Arctic lies in the fact that it is nature's vanguard serving as a huge reserve for world's biological resources. The United States Geological Survey claims that the Arctic contains 10 per cent of the world's known petroleum reserves and 25% of undiscovered reserves.

The warming of the Arctic and enlarging ice-free areas points to a huge shift in the ecological landscape of the region and raises numerous geopolitical questions that are accentuated by a demand to declare Arctic as a global common. New navigable routes open up shorter trade routes through the Arctic Ocean providing an impetus to global commerce. The changing landscape places the Arctic under immense pressure from high yielding economic activity. The discourse on Arctic has now shifted to concerns on environmental, economic and military security altering geopolitical equations among Arctic nations. Global shipping activity is likely to increase manifold in the near future leading to higher levels of air pollution including Black Carbon (BC) emissions that are severely harmful to the planet.

The present article discusses the need for a binding framework to regulate Black Carbon (BC) emissions in the Arctic making certain technical and operational measures, including 'slow steaming' as mandatory norms for compliance. A discussion on global multilateral agreement on BC is on the negotiating table of the international community. There is complete lack of understanding of the solemnity of BC emissions and its impact on sea level rise while there is clear absence of political will to execute an exclusive treaty for the Arctic. The article offers a discussion on existing norms that regulate air pollution in the region and highlights some of the doctrines and tenets in international law that can ease enforcement of such a treaty, if it were ever to be signed.

2.Ensuring Arctic Sustainability

The "Declaration of Principles Governing the Sea-Bed and the Ocean Floor, and the Subsoil Thereof, Beyond the Limits of National Jurisdiction' expressly proclaimed that the seabed and ocean floor, and the subsoil thereof, beyond national jurisdiction (which it referred to as 'The Area') and its resources were the 'common heritage of mankind'. The Area and its resources was not to be subject to appropriation by states or non-state entities, nor could states claim or exercise sovereignty over any part of it. The Area was to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes. Despite the Declaration of principles, industrialized nations have refrained from accepting them as established customary rules or preemptory norms that require absolute adherence. The suggestion to treat the Arctic as a global common subject to international jurisdiction has received little consensus among the Arctic nations. China, South Korea, Japan, and India believe that Arctic should be referred to as the 'common heritage of mankind' for the purpose of promoting sustainable development in the region and further the interests of its indigenous communities.

The voices of smaller nations struggling to survive climate change impacts seems particularly lost in the growing clamor among competing nations to tap the hydrocarbon reserves and exploit natural resources. …

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