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What's going on with the climate?

 

What is the Polar Silk Road?

The Polar Silk Road, also known as the Trans-Arctic Shipping Route, is a potential new trading route
that cuts through the Arctic. China is hoping to be able to use this route when the Arctic inevitably
melts. Though China isn’t an Arctic State, they do have control over the shipping routes, therefore
providing them with more power in delegating this new route.

Concerns

Obviously, this brings up many concerns for the planet. Initially I felt worried for the wildlife that rely solely on Arctic; with extinction rates having dropped by 68% since 1970, the melting of the Arctic
goes on to raise this panic further. To add, new paths for pollution would also have a devastating effect on marine life as it increases risk of pollution, such as, oil spills and dropping of plastic products and wraps. But it’s not just the wildlife we should be concerned about. Almost 4 million people live in the Arctic, to put that into perspective, that’s the population of approximately 4057 state secondary schools in the country or close to the population of Croatia. Even still, we see the devastating effects to the melting ice caps closer to home. With the average air temperature for the Arctic having increased by 1.9°C, rising sea levels have been known to cause catastrophic natural disasters that affect civilisations through flooding and destruction of agriculture and towns. By waiting for it to melt, instead of developing prevention strategies, is arguably an irresponsible way to boost efficient trading.

What is China Doing to help the Arctic?

In China’s 2018 Arctic Policy, they do state that the ‘marine environment is a key area for Arctic environmental protection’ and that ‘China works with other States to enhance control of the sources of marine pollution such as ship discharge, offshore dumping, and air pollution’. Other than promoting Arctic Laws and supporting the Arctic states in the protection of the Arctic, the document struggles to lay out specific policies and plans put in place to protect the Arctic and its wildlife directly from China.

Risk for the push of the Polar Silk Road

With the current Trade Deal with China dilemma, it raises unease about a potential push for more efficient shipping between the two countries. There was also talk about the UK joining the RCEP
trade agreement, which links Asian-Pacific through trade, that China is a part of. However, the UK did not end up joining. But, the UK has applied to join the CPTPP trade agreement; interestingly
Canada, an Arctic State, is also a part of this agreement. Canada appears to have a primary intention to protect marine wildlife in the Arctic. On Canada’s official government website, under ‘Canada’s Arctic Foreign Policy’, they show true determination for the protection, ‘As far back as the 1970s, Canada enacted the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act (AWPPA) to protect its marine environment, taking responsibility for enacting and enforcing anti-pollution and shipping safety laws applicable to a larger area of Arctic waters’. Due to Canada’s prevalence in the protection of the Arctic, in terms of UK intervention, it proves that good relation with Canada, through the CPTPP trade agreement would aid the UK’s ability to protect the Arctic from China’s planned trade route, the Polar Silk Road.

What other prevention strategies could the UK have?

Another potential solution would lie in the COP 26 meeting. Unfortunately, the UK hasn’t been the best in holding to the Paris Agreement. However, if we get back on track, then we will be in a better position to hold China accountable for their lack of commitment, as they stand currently as the 11th most polluted country. Then, we have the possibility to strategise the already in place, Clean Energy Partnership to develop renewable energy resources and technologies. China says they are ‘committed to studying the substance and energy exchange process and mechanisms of the Arctic, evaluating the interaction between the Arctic and global climate change, predicting potential risks
posed by future climate change to the Arctic’s natural resources and ecological environment’, Therefore, a UK partnership development could only help further their commitment. This would require a focus on a specific plan and timeline instead of the current broader ones, for example, carbon free shipping. In turn, it would mean that China has a lesser need for the Polar Silk Road and can focus on clean transport, whilst also supporting the UK’s economy after leaving the EU, and both stay on path for the Paris Agreement.

But what can you do?

We would really appreciate it if you could email your local MP about this issue. We are aware that most people do not have the time to conduct their own research and construct their own email. So, we have created a template email where you simply fill in the gaps like your MP’s name and your details. The template can be found on our website.