GRID Polar Division News

Aspen Institute releases Arctic report "Our Shared Future"

The Aspen Institute Commission on Arctic Climate Change has been working quietly for the last two-and-a-half years on recommendations designed to respond to changing conditions in the Arctic. It has done this through a unique method called a “civil society dialogue.” 






Representatives of NGOs, business, and government met periodically beginning in 2008. The discussions were not for attribution, the idea being that in bringing together a group of people with experience in -- and a passion for the Arctic -- ideas would emerge that could be built into a consensus about what to do in the face of rapid climate change. 

The Commission included Prince Albert II of Monaco, Lloyd Axworthy, former Foreign Minister of Canada, Frances Beinecke, President of the US-based Natural Resources Defense Council, Patricia Cochran, head of the Alaska Native Science Commission, and Sheila Watt-Cloutier, an Inuit advocate and, like Cochran, former international chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Council. Other members included Sylvia Earle, Explorer in Residence at National Geographic, Shell Petroleum vice president, David Lawrence and James Leape, Director General of WWF-International. The Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Jane Lubchenco, is a former Commissioner. She stepped down when President Obama appointed her to her current position. 

GRID-Arendal was part of the working group that supported the Commissioners and has been involved from the inception of the Dialogue.

It was an interesting experience because not only did it produce some useful ideas that complement and support ongoing discussions about governance and ecosystem based management. It was also an unique opportunity to participate in a process the goal of which was to develop shared ideas and solutions. 

“The Shared Future” identifies strategies and approaches to help conserve the critical biological resources of the Arctic Ocean and to assure sustainable livelihoods of the communities that depend on these resources for their survival. It focuses on several recommendations to strengthen the management of the Arctic marine environment in ways that will sustain the natural resilience of the Arctic’s multiple interdependent ecosystems.  

The Commission also released a technical report: “Marine Spatial Planning in the Arctic:  A first step toward ecosystem-based management.”

One of the main messages in the report is that Arctic problems are complex and require cooperative solutions. The Arctic Council is an important institution and it needs to be supported and strengthened. Recommendations include:

  • 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.
  • The Arctic council [should] 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.
  • 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.

The full report and other information can be found here

For a good summary of the statements at the report release, see the National Geographic News Watch

Friday 25 Mar 2011