China will help oversee the development of Arctic energy resources
May 16, 2013
The Arctic Council consists of eight nations - the United States, Russia, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and Iceland - with territorial claims on the resource rich but ecologically sensitive arctic region. Formed in 1996, the group's purpose is to help coordinate policy as resource extraction in the region is made increasingly possible by retreating sea ice. Apart from the eight nation's with direct claims, six additional nations - the UK, France, Germany, Poland, Spain and the Netherlands - were granted observer status.
The list of observer nations grew in May 2013, as the council voted to grant China, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, India and Italy status as well, affirming the place of expanding Asian economies at the arctic energy table
A land of vast resources
According to U.S. Geological Survey estimates, the arctic contains 30 percent of the world's undiscovered natural gas and 13 percent of undiscovered oil resources. In hard numbers, that equates to 28 billion barrels of oil and 27 trillion cubic meters of gas.
These resources are not only made more accessible for extraction by softening northern sea ice, they are also made more transportable.
According to CNN, both the the Northern Sea Route (NSR) across the top of Russia and the Northwest Passage through Canada's arctic archipelago, will be cleared for use as shipping lanes due to diminished ice, which means arctic oil and gas will be able to be easily transported all over the globe.
Growing demand in eastern markets
For China's purposes, the opening of the NSR is critical as the rapidly expanding nation's need for energy is growing each year.
"The symbolic importance for China shouldn't be understated," Malte Humpert, executive director of the Arctic Institute, told Bloomberg. "China has identified the Arctic as a strategically and geopolitically valuable region," and "having a seat at the table, albeit only as a permanent observer, has long been an essential part of the country's regional strategy."
China has ramped up its arctic energy development in the last few years, according to the news outlet. It signed its first European trade pact with Iceland and built that country's largest embassy, it has also invested in Russian arctic oil ventures and begun mining work in Greenland.
In summer of 2013, China plans to makes its first voyage over the Arctic Ocean to the U.S. and Europe.
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