Author(s): Nilsson, A. E.

Year: 2012

In: L. Heininen (ed.) Arctic Yearbook 2012. Akureyri, Iceland: Northern Research Forum. Pages 179-193.

Type: Book chapter



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The Arctic Environment – From Low to High Politics

Environmental issues have been central in giving the Arctic a distinct regional voice and making the region a global concern. Climate change is a case in point, but long-range transport of persistent pollutants and biodiversity have also played important roles. This article places the global framing of the Arctic environment in the context of the growth of global environmental politics that has occurred in parallel with the emergence of the Arctic’s current international governance structure. It specifically addresses how Arctic environmental concerns have been framed in relation to more overarching goals of sustainable development, and in relation to security.

By looking at past and current ‘politics of scale’, the article discusses what is realistic to expect from pan-Arctic environmental governance, and how the emerging global and regional geopolitics may affect the environmental domain. When the current political cooperation started in the Arctic in the 1990s, the environment was an area of ‘low politics’ suitable for new cooperative ventures – then between the East and West. Since then, global environmental governance has become ‘high politics’ and is increasingly linked to resource politics and global markets. This development is likely to also affect the Arctic.

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