Lancaster Professor provides expert evidence on Arctic geopolitics and its impacts on climate science

A polar bear in the Arctic

The UK could play a bigger role in the Arctic – combining innovation and science with maritime influence, according to a Lancaster Professor.

Professor Basil Germond, Chair in International Security at Lancaster University, has provided evidence which is cited in a new report by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee on “The UK and the Arctic Environment”. The report is calling on the Government to address the impacts of a changing Arctic on the UK’s economy, security and polar research.

Professor Germond, who is widely quoted in the report, is an expert in maritime security and geopolitics. He is Co-Director of the University research institute Security Lancaster, which advances interdisciplinary research on security and provides socio-technical solutions to address multi-faceted threats in a rapidly changing world.

The Committee’s report “urges the Government to move the Arctic up the political agenda, be more ambitious in reducing domestic emissions, and lead efforts to champion Arctic science globally”. Yet, the Committee is concerned by the militarization of Arctic affairs that it says “is diverting attention away from climate change in the region” and deplores the fact that “Western scientists have lost data and access to 50% of the Arctic that sits within Russia”.

The report highlights several of Professor Germond’s arguments regarding the impacts of increased geopolitical tensions with Russia on science cooperation and sustainability in the Arctic.

Professor Germond said: “Polar research is still a priority of the UK, but it is now subordinated to defence and security considerations, interests, and objectives. Although collaborative climate research in the Arctic is unlikely to infringe on national security, it will remain politically inappropriate to engage with Russia in the foreseeable future.”

He added: “Not all data are benign just because they are about the climate. For example, sea ice thickness data have obvious military applications, and data regarding the effects of climate change can impact on navigation. It can help with the exploitation of resources.”

The Committee noted Professor Germond’s recommendation that the UK “needs to do more with Western allies” to compensate for the lack of Russian climate data, which he says requires targeted investments in climate science programmes.

Professor Germond said: “The Arctic Council will not be a ‘panacea for climate cooperation regardless of Russia’s participation’ and the UK should push for further cooperation on climate issues in alternative forums such as the Arctic Circle Assembly and the International Maritime Organisation, where security issues can be addressed.”

The Chair of the Committee, James Gray MP, said: “We must look into alternative international fora to champion and collaborate on Arctic research”.

The Committee also noted Professor Germond’s recommendation that the UK shall play a positive role in driving innovation, research and security governance in the High North. The report says: “Professor Germond believed there was the potential for the UK to play a bigger role in the Arctic, saying that: [O]ne of the comparative advantages of the UK on the world stage now is to combine innovation and science power on the one hand with our power to influence the maritime domain on the other hand. That is something we can be very good at in the Arctic.”

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