Science Based Regulation of Arctic Energy Installations (SciBAr Installations)

This grant will facilitate development of a transdiciplinary network of academics and stakeholders designed to provide a 360 degree review of the governance and regulation of threats and impacts to the environment, industry, local communities and other stakeholders associated with offshore energy installations in the Arctic. The network will examine the degree to which the physical sciences, technology and engineering must and can influence regulation and governance to ensure sustainability of Arctic activities.
As Arctic sea ice melts opportunities open up to use offshore installations in the extraction of oil and gas or to generate renewable energy through wind or wave power, or ocean thermal energy conversion.

Given the relatively low level of activity in the Arctic and given that some similar issues arise with all types of installation, the network will focus equally on all types of installation regardless of purpose. High profile accidents elsewhere in the world, such as the Deepwater Horizon blow-out in 2010, highlight the risks of harm that these activities bring with them. These include, risks to the environment through pollution or habitat changes and to local communities of interference with the ways in which they secure their livelihoods e.g. through fishing or tourism. In the Arctic the risks are particularly pronounced because the species found there are highly cold adapted and specialized species, the ecosystems unique and our understanding of these species and ecosystems even more limited than it is in relation to the oceans more generally. In addition extreme health and safety risks for workers arise due to the remoteness and inaccessibility of the ice-laden environment in which installations will be placed. The energy industry also faces risks, such as, of operating in a rapidly changing regulatory context as seen in the USA where Presidential orders have changed the regulatory context rapidly since 2015 and continuing today. Greater certainty in regulation and governance at the international and national levels would benefit all stakeholders as would more detailed regulations based upon sound science designed with the Arctic context in mind. We do not, however, have this, instead we have, global treaties such as the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea 1982 (UNCLOS), which are designed to be applicable in all areas of the oceans from the Caribbean to the Arctic and do not regulate in any detail the specific challenges found in the Arctic such as addressing an oil spill in an icebound area. We also have some Arctic specific treaties, but their focus is narrow, addressing, for example, fisheries rather than all Arctic activities. While the Arctic Council provides a forum for the development of non-binding policies and programmes of action designed for the Arctic, the measures it adopts are generally unenforceable. And while it has recently facilitated the development of 2 treaties, there is no guarantee of more binding laws to come, or indeed that they would address regulation of offshore energy installations. This network is being established to research and test the design of best regulation based on scientific evidence regarding the Arctic environment and to model best governance systems for the delivery of such regulation in the future. Its starting point is to map the current understanding of threats and impacts from and to offshore energy installations in the Arctic. The network will be developed through targeted invitations to specific academics, stakeholders, policy makers and regulators to participate in the network and in two workshops designed to develop that network. A web page will be established to facilitate ongoing communications between the network participants and distribution of findings of research more generally. The key impacts from future work of the network will be evidence-based regulation delivered through stronger governance systems.

Grant reference
Arts and Humanities Research Council
Total awarded
£31,677 GBP
Start date
1 Dec 2017
0 years 3 months 29 days
End date
30 Mar 2018