Owing to the vast economic opportunities and environmental, social, and geopolitical challenges it presents, the Arctic is emerging as an important topic of debate. With an estimated 25 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas reserves, and with climate change making shorter maritime routes through Arctic waters possible, the rewards of successful economic development are plentiful. However, the remote, pristine frontier is home to some of the world’s harshest conditions making energy development, maritime trade and tourism increasingly difficult and dangerous. The Arctic is also home to indigenous communities whose livelihoods are likely to be challenged by both the effects of climate change and increasing external human activity in the region.
On April 17, the Energy Security Initiative at Brookings hosted a forum to discuss the implications of greater Arctic energy and natural resource development and assessed how the international community can best cooperate to ensure that such developments are done in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner. The forum begins with keynote remarks from Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, president of Iceland, and Kuupik Kleist, a member of Parliament of Greenland and former Greenland prime minister. Other speakers included the incoming Chair of the Senior Arctic Officials of the Arctic Council, Patrick Borbey; David Hayes, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Interior; and Mead Treadwell, lieutenant governor of the State of Alaska.