Local global and regional preferences in the ACIA

The ACIA provides an illustration of how the global preference is complemented by a local perspective. As discussed in Chapter 6 of this dissertation, the local perspective in the ACIA scientific report is often connected to a social science knowledge base and to the participation of indigenous peoples. I argue that this local emphasis is a result of the power base that indigenous peoples have in the Arctic Council, which can be contrasted to the lack of such a power base in the IPCC where governments are the only legitimate political actors. By contrast, the relative weakness of a sub-regional perspective in the assessment could be a sign that sub-regional decision makers lack real influence in the Arctic Council.

The global framing is also emphasized in the policy document from the ACIA process. This could indicate that state actors who had the power to influence the policy outcomes wanted to link them to global policy processes and therefore had a preference for

5 Selin and VanDeveer, "Political Science and Prediction: What's Next for the U.S. Climate Change Policy?."

6 Louis Lebel, Po Garden, and Masao Imamura, "The Politics of Scale, Position, and Place in the Governance of Water Resources in the Mekong Region," Ecology and Society 10, no. 2 (2005): 18.

this global perspective. The reasons varied among the actors, for instance the Nordic states and the indigenous peoples wanted the Arctic to serve as a bellwether for global climate change and possible leverage in the global negotiations. By contrast, it was clear that the US State Department did not want to give the Arctic this role and that it would, in fact, put a major effort into stopping any initiative towards making the Arctic Council a legitimate arena for climate politics. In this instance, the global preference is in direct contrast to a regional preference.

These disagreements over how strongly the role of the Arctic should be highlighted illustrate that political powers struggle over the appropriate spatial scale in climate governance. For the indigenous peoples' organizations, the circumpolar perspective has many political advantages. First of all, it gives them a stronger power position than they would have if the nation state is the governance level of choice. At this level, they have been, historically, at the periphery with the power core in national capitals south of the Arctic. The circumpolar scale also gives them a special role in a global context as spokespeople for nature. For nation states, the circumpolar perspective can have advantages in relation to cooperation that does not entail any threat to national interests. However, because climate politics are so intimately connected to energy and also historically to economic growth, national interests were much more important in this assessment than in previous scientific assessments under the auspices of circumpolar political cooperation. Thus it should not come as a surprise that the circumpolar view was challenged, especially by the United States whose climate policies were most at odds with a message of the Arctic as a bellwether for climate change.

In the scientific report, there is a surprisingly weak focus on the circumpolar spatial scale in many of the individual chapters, relative to references to the global and local contexts. It is surprising based on the fact that the assessment was carried out as part of the circumpolar political cooperation in the Arctic Council. There is no challenge to the circumpolar perspective and several efforts to accommodate it, but nevertheless it appears that the circumpolar context of the assessment process, as a whole, was not quite able to overcome the preferences embedded in different scientific disciplines. I suggest that the relative weakness of circumpolar perspectives could at least partly be understood by the geopolitical history of the region and that the current regime for environmental cooperation has not been able to influence knowledge production for long enough, or is not strong enough, to have had a significant impact of the scientific framing of Arctic climate change. It may also reflect remnants of the colonial view of the Arctic within many natural science disciplines, where the Arctic is primarily of interest because of its global role. The efforts to try to accommodate the policy wish for circumpolar assessment would then be a sign of the growing role of Arctic political cooperation for knowledge production. The inclusion of more local perspectives could be viewed as an expression of peoples in the region striving for increasing independence, not only politically but also in questions about power over knowledge production about the region. The attempts to combine local indigenous observations across the Arctic can similarly be viewed as a mirror of the increasing political circumpolar cooperation among indigenous peoples.

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