At the New York Times, "Race Is On as Ice Melt Reveals Arctic Treasures":
NUUK, Greenland — With Arctic ice melting at record pace, the world’s superpowers are increasingly jockeying for political influence and economic position in outposts like this one, previously regarded as barren wastelands.More at that top link.
At stake are the Arctic’s abundant supplies of oil, gas and minerals that are, thanks to climate change, becoming newly accessible along with increasingly navigable polar shipping shortcuts. This year, China has become a far more aggressive player in this frigid field, experts say, provoking alarm among Western powers.
While the United States, Russia and several nations of the European Union have Arctic territory, China has none, and as a result, has been deploying its wealth and diplomatic clout to secure toeholds in the region.
“The Arctic has risen rapidly on China’s foreign policy agenda in the past two years,” said Linda Jakobson, East Asia program director at the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney, Australia. So, she said, the Chinese are exploring “how they could get involved.”
In August, China sent its first ship across the Arctic to Europe and it is lobbying intensely for permanent observer status on the Arctic Council, the loose international body of eight Arctic nations that develops policy for the region, arguing that it is a “near Arctic state” and proclaiming that the Arctic is “the inherited wealth of all humankind,” in the words of China’s State Oceanic Administration.
Amazing that it's China pushing most aggressively for Arctic development. Beijing's not too concerned about pollution, in any case, but it's interesting how this places enormous pressures on other countries not to fall too far behind in exploiting these treasures.
There's an Antarctic Treaty dating back to 1961 that regulate international relation on that continent, with codicils for the environment added in 1981. Keep your eyes peeled for an increasing multilateral push for a companion treaty arrangement for the North Pole. See, "As the Far North Melts, Calls Grow for Arctic Treaty."