What's the Oak Foundation Doing to Protect Polar Regions?

The frigid ends of the Earth are home to vibrant marine ecosystems, yet face a range of environmental pressures. Not a lot of funders are focused here, which makes the Oak Foundation's grantmaking to protect the polar areas worth spotlighting. 

Recently, the Oak Foundation granted Pacific Environment $300,000 toward the continuing development and ratification of the Polar Code, now being developed by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). 

Earlier this year, the IMO approved a first draft of the code, which outlines environmental policies for shipping regulations in Arctic waters. This initial draft addresses safety measures for ships traversing the inhospitable waters between the Earth’s poles. When the code is complete, it will address issues such as ship design, ship construction, mandatory equipment, operational matters, training concerns, search and rescue procedures as well as the environmental protection of the polar regions.

The Pacific Environment has been working toward the same goals of developing a "stringent regulation" of shipping traffic in the polar regions, with the main goals of reducing diesel emissions, preventing oil spill disasters and protecting marine mammals.

The Oak Foundation's latest grant to Pacific Environment is just the latest aimed at supporting its work, particularly its efforts to protech polar regions. Oak has awarded Pacific Environment grants out of its Marine Conservation, North Pacific/Arctic Program since 2006. Here’s a look:

  • $300,000 over two-years for protection work of the North Pacific ecosystem from offshore oil development, unregulated international shipping and mining at watershed headwaters
  • $50,000 over one year to build and launch an Alternative Energy Technology Centre in the Chemal District of the Republic of Altai.
  • $325,000 over two years toward the protection of Alaskan ecosystems from industrialization. The grant also went toward work on improving ocean governance, capacity building efforts of Alaska Natives and to protect the Arctic waters from oil and gas development.
  • $315,000 over two years grant to help protect Arctic communities by the development of a mandatory Polar Code.

According to Pacific Environment, Arctic shipping is only going to increase in the years to come, with the Bering Sea being a potential "chokepoint" for Arctic shipping. That makes it increasingly important that the Polar Code is passed—and soon.