A new House of Lords committee has been established to consider the recent changes in the Arctic and assess their implications for the UK and its foreign relations.
The cross-party committee will explore climate change and its impact on shipping routes, energy resource mineral extraction, the environment, international relations, security, tourism, fisheries and indigenous species.
Speaking to the BBC, Lord Teverson, chairman of the committee, described its establishment as a response to factors like climate change. Ecological and geographical changes in the Arctic are predictably affecting the environment, he said.
With the changes, Teverson added, comes a responsibility to monitor and hopefully stop the consequences of climate change on indigenous populations and the Arctic’s diverse ecology.
Recent reports suggested that ice sheets in the Arctic are facing an unstoppable collapse. Scientists have expressed grave predictions on the future of the region.
Teverson did, however, express the “possibility of opportunity” with the shrinking size of the ice caps providing “shorter trade routes” and “mineral excavation”.
Continued protests against Arctic oil drilling operations has emphasised the vulnerability of the region. Scientists have also increasingly warned that shipping routes and increased transport activity could bring invasive alien species to the already sensitive ecology of the region.
The UK is currently not part of the Arctic Council, with members including Russa, Denmark and Canada, but Teverson noted “shared interests” with the council with regards to trading, security issues, environmental protection and general foreign relations.
This is an attitude supported by the UN, which calls for greater international responsibility and response in the melting region.
The committee is only set to run for one year due to the 2015 general election, but Teverson has expressed desires to implement positive changes that a future government will wish to uphold.
Photo: NOAA Photo Library via flickr