"NUUK, Greenland — The eight Arctic nations pledged Thursday to create international protocols to prevent and clean up offshore oil spills in areas of the region that are becoming increasingly accessible to exploration because of a changing climate.
The Arctic Council — the United States, Russia, Canada, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Finland and Sweden — said the protocols would be modeled on a separate agreement signed here in Nuuk on Thursday to coordinate search-and-rescue operations over 13 million square miles of ocean.
The search-and-rescue pact is the first legally binding agreement adopted by the council, which was created in 1996 to address challenges and opportunities in the Arctic spurred by the retreat of sea ice — like growing oil and gas exploration or increasing traffic of cargo and cruise ships, which have doubled the number of tourists in the Arctic in recent years.
The council’s actions, officials said, reflected a maturation of a regional group that has been criticized for not acting more aggressively to address the myriad issues of a drastically changing Arctic. The pursuit of natural resources has sharpened regional competition and raised the possibilities of pollution and environmental catastrophes."
Steven Lee Myers reports for the New York Times May 12, 2011.