At the crossroads of science: how the health of the inhabitants of the Arctic depends on lawyers, engineers and economists
The head of the NArFU' Arctic biomonitoring laboratory, Tatyana Sorokina, about why for the full reclaiming of the Arctic, protection of its unique nature and health of the local residents requires the collaboration of specialists from different countries and different areas of science.
- Tatyana Yurievna, last week you, as part of the delegation of the NArFU, visited an international seminar in Scotland on the legal regulation of the use of energy resources in the Arctic. Tell us about your impressions.
- Organizers have acted very competently, having invited representatives of different disciplines: ecologists, engineers, lawyers and not only. There was an opportunity to cover the same problem from different perspectives. When the humanities left planning to reclaiming of the Arctic and moved to the dreams, engineers comes and said: "For today, technologies are not developed enough, we cannot do what you describe." They were echoed by economists: "In the short term, this will not be economically profitable. It is unlikely that someone will undertake such a project. " And in those places where engineers did not see any problems, the lawyers noticed shortcomings: "In this sphere there is not enough legal regulation, therefore we can not conduct such activity until we change the legislation". This showed well how important and useful the cooperation of representatives of different sciences.
- What problems did the experts discuss at the seminar?
- The issues of the impact of various energy installations on the environment were very actively discussed. Many problems of legal regulation in the sphere of energy resources developing were revealed, primarily at the international level. For instance, until now, the responsibility for the consequences of pollution that may occur in transboundary oil spills, has not been sufficiently distributed. A plan of action in emergency situations is not prescribed. Who, how and in what terms responds, what measures - today there is no clear understanding from any of the states.
It should be understood that even in case when the emergency does not happen, the platforms and power plants still affect the environment, even during the course of their work.
- How does this happening?
- It can be vibration, noise, heat or light exposure: in the winter in the Arctic is dark, and the platforms are always illuminated and it is unnatural for the flora and fauna that lives around. For today, these processes have not been sufficiently studied and there is no understanding of the extent to which the installations affect the fragile Arctic ecosystem.
In addition, few associate the impact on the environment with human health. To some extent, this relationship is obvious and to some extent even discussed, but no order of actions is set out in the case, for example, of mass diseases that may be caused by the state of the environment. To date, the mechanisms for proving the cause-effect relationships between the deterioration of human health and the impact of enterprises on nature have not even been worked out.
We do not know yet whether the active developing of hydrocarbon deposits will affect the health of the inhabitants of the nearest regions. And we do not know how to compensate for damage if it does.
- And why it can affect the health of people?
- For example, pollution from offshore platforms affects the state of marine resources, including commercial fish species. How sustainable will be these changes caused by such an impact, how they affect a person who consumes this fish, we are not yet ready to respond. How to form an evidentiary foundation in case if the victim will raise the matter for compensation for harm to health is also not clear. By the way, in the Arctic biomonitoring laboratory, we are currently trying to work out a mechanism that will facilitate the process of judicial proof of harm to human health caused by exposure to toxicants entering the body through the food chain.
- That is, legal regulation is the first step towards effective protection of the health of the inhabitants of the Arctic territories?
- I would say that this is not the first, but one of the main. In my opinion, during drafting normative acts it is incredibly important to take into account the opinions of scientists and practicing specialists from the industry who will work with this law. Practicing specialists, in turn, should understand that legal regulation is necessary to avoid many unpleasant situations.
- From what can we begin to work out international norms?
- Based on the results of the seminar, participants have already created a plan for interdisciplinary research. We were able to agree with representatives of different countries on joint research in the field of international law and comparative jurisprudence science.
The first thing we can do is to share best practices with each other. Scotland and Australia, for example, have experience working with offshore platforms and extraction of hydrocarbons in the sea, respectively, and experience in the legal regulation of these activities in these states. But we can not argue that their example will be suitable for the Arctic, therefore it is very important to conduct research, to try different models and develop recommendations for the Arctic conditions.
It is very important to create platforms for dialogue, and interested specialists will already find common ground and ways on which to interact.
- For which period of time is this plan calculated?
- It was decided to publish at least 4-5 joint scientific articles for 2018. We have divided the areas of responsibility among ourselves, in particular, NArFU will analyze Russian legislation regulating oil and gas exploration and production activities, as well as the cold-stacking and liquidation of wells from the point of view of ensuring environmental protection in the process of carrying out these works. The best examples of legislative regulation and law enforcement practices will be translated into English. This was a special request from foreign colleagues.
We have a not the worst environmental legislation: many normative acts have been developed aimed at preserving nature objects, rational use of natural resources and protecting the rights of citizens. I believe that we have many good laws, but there are problems with how they are applied. Finding the reasons why a good law in some cases does not work - it's very useful. Often, there is no need to develop and adopt a new federal law, it is enough only to change several departmental acts to make everything work.
It is important for Russian scientists, including jurists, to be active abroad: they know little about our activities in the Arctic, despite the rich history of its development by our country.
- What time may be needed to formulate international legal norms?
- The adoption of international agreements takes years: come to agreement among themselves for different states, nations, cultures is difficult, but we need to start, otherwise we will continue to exist in our own separate world.
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