The ACIA also illustrates some potential limitations of regional arenas in relation to global climate policy and knowledge production. Specifically, the ACIA policy process showed that international regional discussions of climate change are likely to be colored by the global policy dynamics. In this case, the Nordic countries used the process to try to push their agenda for stronger control of greenhouse gas emissions by using the new knowledge base to strengthen their argument about the need for action. The United States, on the other hand, tried to distance itself from this new scientific base in order to not reconsider its previous climate policy stands. In this vertical interplay among regimes, the well established global regime took prominence over the regional one. Even if there was a policy document that acknowledged the implications of the ACIA and called for measures to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, it did not go further than commitments already made in the global climate negotiations.
One possible explanation for this dynamic is that the UNFCCC until recently has had an almost exclusively global focus and thus cemented the framing of climate politics as a global issue, especially as it relates to mitigation. To change such a framing would be very difficult especially if it goes against the interest of powerful actors, such as the United States. Another explanation could be that the Arctic Council is a soft-law regime dependent on consensus and so preventing the breakdown of that consensus, which could threaten the future of the Arctic Council, was an important priority for several state actors in the ACIA process. This would make any change in framing even more difficult. It also made it easier for state actors who do not want to see a united circumpolar climate policy to say that the Arctic Council was not the proper forum for making climate policy. Vertical interplay may also explain why the ACIA reports do not include any assessment of regional greenhouse gas emissions. According to the UNFCCC, such inventories are the responsibility of states.
The place of mitigation issues in global and national arenas rather than at the regional level may have negative consequences for regional mitigation efforts. Specifically, the ACIA process does not provide any direct knowledge or policy base for sub-
28 Koivurova and Heinamaki "The Participation of Indigenous Peoples in International Norm-Making in the Arctic," Polar Record 42, no. 221 (2006): 101.
regional or local actors to start discussing local, sub-regional, or circumpolar cuts in emissions of greenhouse gases. One might argue that the Arctic's contribution to global greenhouse gas emissions is negligible, but similar arguments can be made for other regions and many individual countries as well. Moreover, it is worth noting that a substantial share of the global oil and gas reserves are in the Arctic, some of which are under rapid development and may become even more attractive when they are more accessible because of declining sea ice.29 The actors allowed in a regional regime and the regime's mandate in relation to issue areas may therefore be important factors in determining what role a particular regime will be able to play in future climate policy and knowledge production. Future development within the Arctic Council, especially how it will connect knowledge from the ACIA process with a forthcoming assessment of oil and gas, may provide further clues into the dynamic interplay between different arenas in relation to climate change mitigation. It may also provide further clues as to how the Arctic Council will deal with these issues in relation to sustainable development, an overarching policy goal of the Council's work. The ACIA itself made very few such connections.
To summarize, based on the Arctic experience, soft-law regional international regimes are not likely to overcome deep conflicts of interest among member states or become major alternatives to the negotiation arenas of the UNFCCC. However, the regional Arctic assessment brought new actors into the core activities of knowledge production and new issues to the fore in framing of climate change. In particular, the inclusion of indigenous peoples' knowledge helped illustrate current and potential future impacts of climate change in ways that were strong enough to affect the dynamics of the policy process, even if there was little immediate change in climate policy.
Was this article helpful?