15 Mar Does the U.S. Really Need The Law of the Sea Treaty to Make Claims in the Arctic?
Here is another persuasive account of why the U.S. is disadvantaged by not joining the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The case is fairly simple: There is a lot of oil and natural gas up there, and the U.S. can’t negotiate with other countries to divvy it up until it signs on to UNCLOS.
The 5.5 million-square-mile area north of the Arctic Circle — part of the U.S., Russia, Canada, Denmark (which owns Greenland), Finland, Norway, Iceland and Sweden — contains up to 25 percent of the Earth’s undiscovered oil and gas reserves, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. . . .But to remove those resources you have to own them, and nations are now scrambling to claim vast new areas of sea bottom. They can do so by proving them to be extensions of their continental shelves. In summer, U.S., Russian, Canadian, and Danish scientists aboard icebreakers conduct studies to support claims submitted to a U.N. commission. In theory, the U.S. could gain an undersea region as big as California.That’s the good news, but the bad news is that the United States is last in the claims race. The U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf has begun examining claims from Russia and Norway, which could be granted before the U.S. formally joins the process. Although the U.S. is gathering information for a claim, it cannot be submitted — nor can the U.S. have a say in the claims of other nations — until the government signs an international treaty. The agreement under which the apportionment of riches will go forward — the 1982 Law of the Sea Convention — lays out a comprehensive set of rules governing ocean issues, including protection of marine environments. All Arctic nations except the U.S. have signed. “If this were a ball game,” one Coast Guard admiral told me, “the U.S. wouldn’t be on the field or even in the stadium.”