I sometimes follow with interest and some trepidation the consideration by the various House of Lords committees on various matters particularly those of a maritime nature.In late November the House of Lords Select Committee on the Arctic took evidence from the Ambassador of Japan, the High Commissioner for Singapore as well as diplomats from Canada, Sweden and Finland as part of its enquiry into the Arctic region.
Evidence was taken in two sessions. In the first the committee questioned the Ambassador and the High Commissioner on their nations’ role as observers of the Arctic Council, why their interest in the region has increased in recent years and how trade in Japan and Singapore could be affected by a reduction of sea ice and possible new Arctic shipping routes.
In the second session with the diplomats from Canada, Sweden and Finland, the committee asked the representatives about their countries priorities for the Arctic and the balance they strike between economic development and conservation. The session also explored how Arctic states can ensure indigenous and local communities benefit from economic development and the role that Arctic Council observers such as the UK can play.
The changing nature of the Arctic region will in the future create new economic opportunities and the possibility of new shipping routes, but debate over its future by the nations within the Arctic Council and those outside it will also in my opinion be a source of friction and difference between nations.