Suggests joint Arctic environmental legislations

State Duma Deputy Maxim Shingarkin is Deputy Chairman of the committee on natural resources, wildlife management and ecology.

MURMANSK: State Duma Deputy Maxim Shingarkin proposes that all Arctic states should adopt common laws for environmental standards as the top of the world opens for oil drilling. In the mean-time, bureaucratic problems hinder cross-border oil-spill preparedness.


Parliamentarians from across the circumpolar north met in Murmansk last Thursday to share solutions for common challenges in times of climate changes. The Standing Committee of Parliamentarians of the Arctic Region comprises deputies from national parliaments of the Arctic states and observers from other Nordic cooperations, Indigenous peoples of the north and the European Union. The meeting in Murmansk was the 11th in a row since 1993.

Discussing Arctic issues, just a week before scientists and government representatives are meeting in Stockholm to produce the latest review of climate change, naturally made up for the parliamenratians agenda in Murmansk. Environmental safety and climate challenges was discussed thoroughly among the Committee’s members. The meeting took place at the conference hall of Marina Kovtun, Governor of Murmansk Oblast.

Maxim Shingarkin (LDPR) is Deputy Chairman of the State Duma’s Committee on natural resources, wildlife management and ecology. In his speech to fellow circumpolar deputies, Shingarkin raised the issue of creating joint legislations for environmental protection in the Arctic.

“We as Arctic parliamentarians should work to create joint regulations and legislations for the whole Arctic Region. The laws aimed at protecting the Arctic nature should be similar. We as parliamentarians could work with that as a goal in our home parliaments,” said Maxim Shingarkin. He pointed to the fact that the risk of oil spill, and the consequences, in Arctic waters are much higher than in other places on the globe.  

“Reckless development can increase the pollution if we don’t take measures,” said Shingarkin.

The Russian Duma member’s suggestion was not immediately applauded among the other parliamentarians around the long table in Murmansk. Chair of the Standing Committee, Morten Høglund from the Norwegian Parliament, suggested to the Russian delegation that a working group could be established to elaborate more on the issue.

It was decided to let the Russian State Duma members in the Committee prepare a memorandum on how to establish a working group in order to work out “the procedure of developing the unified environmental standards (requirements) for the projects (activities) to be fulfilled in the Arctic Zone.”

Being the Arctic Council’s parliamentarian supporter, the Committee took a nearly similar decision as the Council itself. 

Arctic Council analyzes global instruments
Before taking over the chair of the Arctic Council in Kiruna in May, also Canada had thoughts of how joint environmental standards aimed at all Arctic costal states could be created. The Arctic Council, however, decided not to move along with legislations, but to let the “working group on Protection of the Marine Environment (PAEM) analyzes the global and regional instruments and measures that govern the Arctic marine environment, and provides policy recommendations for Arctic stats to strengthen the conservation and sustainable use of the Arctic marine environment.”

Simultaneously as the parliamentarians discussed ways to coop with protecting the fragile environment, the Greenpeace protesters on board the vessel “Arctic Sunrise” was arrested near the oil rig Prilazlomnoye, Russia’s only offshore drilling platform in the Barents Sea. A few kilometers from the Murmansk Governor’s building in Murmansk, local oil spill officials and WWF worked together training 20 new volunteers to clean up oil spills in case of accidents.

Bureaucratic headache toils cooperation
From before, Murmansk oil spill preparedness authorities have educated 300 volunteers together with WWF and Norwegian partners. Several cross-border oil spill exercises have taken place over the years with Norwegian and Russian partners, last time in spring in the fjord outside Kirkenes on the Norwegian side of the border. 

Head of Eco-Centre in Murmansk, Aleksandr Glazov told the Committee about the success of this year’s joint exercise. Success because it was an exercise, not the real thing.

“It took us three weeks for the paper work to get a visa to Norway,” said Glazov and continued: “On the way back after the exercise it took us five days to clear our oil spill equipment through the customs.”

“I address you as parliamentarians to fix the legislations so cross-border oil spill properness can be more effective. Please, have a dialog with us,” said Aleksandr Glazov.