The Heat Is Online

EU Warns of Conflict Threat over Arctic Resources

Warming Arctic a minefield, Europe warned


Warming opens energy areas and tension with Russia, EU staff report says


Reuters, March. 9, 2008


BRUSSELS, Belgium - European Union leaders will receive a stark warning next week of potential conflict with Russia over energy resources at the North Pole as global warming melts the ice cap and aggravates international security threats.


A report by EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and the executive European Commission describes climate change as "a threat multiplier" that will exacerbate many existing tensions and heighten instability.


"A further dimension of competition for energy resources lies in potential conflict over resources in Polar regions which will become exploitable as a consequence of global warming," the eight-page report obtained by Reuters said.


"The resulting new strategic interests are illustrated by the recent planting of the Russian flag under the North Pole."


A Russian scientific expedition planted a flag on the ocean floor last August, staking a symbolic claim to the resource-rich region.

President Vladimir Putin decorated the three-man team with "Hero of Russia" medals.


The report said the EU needed to address the growing debate over Arctic territorial claims and access to new trade routes that challenge its ability to secure its trade and resource interests and may put pressure on relations with "key partners."


It suggested the 27-nation bloc develop a specific Arctic policy "based on the evolving geo-strategy of the Arctic region, taking into account ... access to resources and the opening of new trade routes."


Rules of international law such as the Law of the Sea might have to be strengthened to cope with new challenges, the report said.


Other warming risks cited


The study suggested the EU should do more to focus international attention on security risks related to climate change using the U.N. Security Council, the Group of Eight major industrialized powers and specialist U.N. bodies.


It cited a host of regional examples of the increased prospect of conflict caused by the reduction of arable land, water shortages, dwindling food and fish stocks, increased flooding and prolonged droughts which were already occurring.


The east coasts of China and India, as well as the Caribbean region and Central America, face particularly severe economic damage from sea-level rise and increasing natural disasters, the report said.


Loss of territory as coastlines recede and large areas are submerged would magnify disputes over land and maritime borders.


'Environmental migrants' predicted


"Europe must expect substantially increased migratory pressure," the report said, as millions of "environmental migrants" flee poverty, poor health and unemployment, risking increased conflicts in transit and destination areas.


Solana and EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said climate change could increase instability in failed or failing states, stoking tensions between ethnic and religious groups and political radicalization.


Existing tensions over access to water in the Middle East were almost certain to intensify, "leading to further political instability with detrimental implications for Europe's energy security and other interests," the report said.


It also saw additional potential for conflict in central Asia from an increasing shortage of water, vital for both agriculture and power generation, with an impact on EU strategic and economic interests.


Copyright 2008 Reuters.