The news: Canada has filed a preliminary submission to the United Nations and seeks to claim the North Pole under its own sovereignty, according to Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird.
“Fundamentally, we are drawing the last lines of Canada. We are defending our sovereignty,” said Arctic Council Chair Leona Aglukkaq.
Denmark and Russia also intend to claim the North Pole. The three, along with the United States, all border the North Pole region and are eligible to claim the territory with the UN, though the U.S. has not filed any preliminary claims.
The backstory: Submissions to claim the North Pole are filed with the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. In order to claim the territory, each country bordering the region must submit evidence that its borders cover the North Pole. Denmark, Russia, and Canada all stake a claim to the Lomonosov Ridge underwater mountain range that stretches under the pole.
While this may be the first time a country has officially attempted to claim the North Pole, it is not the first time a country has tried to call the region its own. Back in 2007, a Russian expedition planted a Russian flag at the North Pole, claiming, “The Arctic has always been Russian.” Both Canada and the U.S. dismissed the action, however, calling it “just a show.”
Why this matters: There are actually pretty high stakes involved in claiming the North Pole. Though the region seems uninhabitable to anyone not named Claus, it’s an abundant trove of natural resources.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the North Pole region contains nearly one third of the undiscovered natural gas left in the world, and 15% of oil. Claiming the North Pole is “vital to the future development of Canada’s offshore resources,” said Baird.
Which is why Russia isn’t going to take this sitting down. President Vladimir Putin said he would bolster Russia’s military presence in the region, while the country prepares its own claim with the UN.
In the end, any conclusive claim to the North Pole has to come from an agreement between the eligible parties, meaning someone is going to have to cede to another. With the way these preliminary claims have raised tensions, I don’t see that happening any time soon.