Yesterday, the Kingdom of Norway submitted a proposal to the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf defining Norway's sovereign territory beyond its continental shelf, becoming the first nation to officially set subsea Arctic boundaries. Under the Law of the Sea Treaty, which Norway is a party to, nations can claim subsea territory up to 200 nautical miles beyond the end of their continental shelves, giving them the rights to subsea minerals. This includes oil and gas, which the Arctic is believed to hold in significant amounts, and which is becoming more and more accessible as rising temperatures cause Arctic ice sheets to recede later and later into the year.
Norway is the largest offshore producer of oil in the world and the third largest exporter of crude. The other nations with potential subsea Arctic territory claims are the U.S., Canada, Russia, and Denmark. The United States is not a signatory to the Law of the Sea Treaty, which has been blocked by conservative Senators who believe ratifying the treaty will result in a concession of U.S. sovereignty to international governing bodies. However, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has stressed the need to sign on to the treaty, including in her Senate confirmation hearings, where she stated that the failure to sign has left the U.S. "disadvantaged" in the Arctic.