The North Pole is home to 13% of the world's undiscovered oil reserves, and roughly a third of natural gas deposits lie under the Arctic. These U.S. Geological Survey figures might explain why a group of countries known as the Arctic Five -- Russia, Norway, Canada, the U.S. and Denmark are strategically battling out the future of the natural resource-rich waters.
The most recent to eye the delicate region? Denmark, Greenland, and the Farou Islands. AFP reports the Danish government Monday presented its "Arctic Strategy" from 2011-2020, laying out its intentions to claim the North Pole seabed by 2014 at the latest. Business Insider explains the plan would extend their current ownership to northern Greenland, a self-governing Danish territory.
Under international law, no country actually owns the Arctic Ocean or the North Pole. But, according to the U.N. Convention Of The Sea, countries bordering the Arctic are currently entitled to a 200 nautical mile economic zone from their coastlines, and if a country can prove an extended continental shelf, they'll gain sovereignty of up to 350 miles.
Denmark's claim will be decided by the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf, reports the Hurriyet Daily News.
But the nNordic country's move could overlap with other claims from Russia and Norway, along with Canada making an application, according to Michael Byers, an international law professor at the University of British Columbia in an interview with The Financial Times.
In 2007, Russia famously sent two mini submarines to the bottom of the Arctic and planted a flag to stake a claim in the sought-after region. Two years later, President Bush staked a claim that the U.S. was an Arctic nation that had access and rights to natural resources and travel.
The rush to claim the land is heating up thanks in part to climate change melting the region, reports Bernard Simon in The Financial Times.
Not only could the shrinking ice caps mean more oil to suck up and fossil fuels to burn, but it will also translate into quicker shipping routes for trade along the Northern Sea Route. For instance, the Financial Times reports, some 7,000 km could be saved if a more northerly route is taken from Rotterdam to Tokyo, instead of the Suez Canal.
The Washington Times in June explained how this new activity in the relatively untouched region could have severe consequences for the environment if fishing and tourism takeoff. Activists such as Greenpeace have been opposed to any resource extraction in the region since 2000.
“We believe it’s high time to put some bars on the industry’s push into the area. It’s too vulnerable, and there is no way to clean an oil spill out of ice,” Truls Gulowsen, program director of Greenpeace Nordic told The Washington Times.
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