Corporations Pledge No Arctic Shipping, As New Islands Emerge in Melting Russian Arctic

Photo: Military Sealift Command

The Russian Navy confirmed on Wednesday the discovery of new islands in their Arctic waters that have emerged as the glaciers around them melted, which scientists warn is happening because of climate change.  And yesterday, a group of corporations led by Nike and the conservation group Ocean Conservancy announced the launch of the Arctic Shipping Corporate Pledge under which they agree not to intentionally ship goods through the Arctic shipping routes that are opening up as a result of the same melting.

Why This Matters:  The discovery of new islands in the Arctic is not likely to be an isolated incident — in fact between 2015 and 2018, more than 30 new islands, capes, and bays along the Russian Arctic coastline were “discovered.”  This is why the Arctic Shipping Pledge could not come at a better time — when the pressure to increase shipping there, with associated ice risks and pollution, is escalating.  Adopting the “precautionary principle” with shipping in the Arctic is the best thing to do, and is consistent with an international agreement banning commercial fishing in the high Arctic that is already in place.

Arctic Shipping Pledge

The companies taking the pledge both “acknowledge that greenhouse gas emissions from global shipping are jeopardizing the Arctic” and agree to look for other ways to reduce emissions from global shipping, as well as acknowledge that “climate risks already impacting or threatening Arctic peoples, sea life and ecosystems.”

  • “Ocean Conservancy applauds Nike for recognizing the real bottom line here is a shared responsibility for the health of the Arctic—and believes the pledge will spur much-needed action to prevent risky Arctic shipping and hopes additional commitments to reduce emissions from global shipping will emerge,” said Janis Searles Jones, CEO of Ocean Conservancy.

Other companies that have signed the pledge so far include Bestseller, Columbia, Gap Inc., H&M, Kering, Li & Fung, PVH Corp., and ocean shipping companies CMA CGM, Evergreen, Hapag-Lloyd, and Mediterranean Shipping Company.

Russian Arctic Islands

The new islands will now be included on maps and given names.  CNN reported that there was a similar discovery made last January, when glaciers in the Canadian Arctic melted enough to reveal an area of land that had been hidden under ice for at least 40,000 years.  Scientists warn that the Arctic is warming twice as fast as other parts of the planet and that if glaciers continue to melt at this rate, entire island nations like Palau could disappear underwater. Rising sea levels could displace up to a fifth of the world’s population by 2100, and millions of people could face food and drinking water shortages and pollution and the spread of climate-related diseases could give rise to health crises.

Map: Ocean Conservancy

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