Plans by the EU, US and China to exploit oil and gas reserves in the Arctic have been criticised by Greenpeace as 'unsustainable' and a threat to the region's ecosystem.
Countries have rushed to lay claim to areas of the Arctic Ocean during the past few years, following predictions such as those made by the US Geological Survey that as much as 22 per cent of the world's undiscovered fossil fuel resources could lie there.
Boom and bust
Speaking at the annual Arctic Frontiers conference, Greenpeace’s Nordic Executive Director, Mads Flarup Christensen, said oil and gas drilling would bring ecological boom-and-bust to the Arctic.
'In the shorter term there is economic development and jobs, but they do not come with a guarantee that the ecosystem won’t be affected and in turn, negatively affect communities.'
He called for an immediate ban on industrial oil and gas exploration to protect ecosystems and the communities that depend on them for their survival.
‘We see the moratorium as an immediate measure to address the current governance gap in the Arctic Ocean, and something that will remain in place until a more permanent, overarching treaty or agreement is established to protect this part of the Arctic Ocean from additional damage,’ said Christensen.
No whaling or sealing ban
Christensen added that Greenpeace was not seeking a ban on traditional or subsistence activities like whaling, sealing or fishing but only industrial activities.
'It’s the oil and gas activities, industrial fishing, shipping, mining and other industrial activities that pose threats to the ecosystem. If such industrial activities are allowed without a proper governance system for the Arctic Ocean as a whole, and even before the environmental values hidden under the sea ice have been mapped or understood, it will be another tragic example of our human inability to respect the precautionary principle.'
Christensen also criticised claims that the oil and gas extraction could be sustainable and said it was not possible because of the, 'routine spills, leaks, emissions to air and waster, vessel and air traffic, industrial noise and all manner of disturbance that takes place during the exploration, extraction and transportation of oil and gas'.
Meanwhile, an alliance of conservation and Alaskan indigenous groups have issued a legal challenge in the US in an attempt to block drilling plans by the oil giant Shell.
The alliance accuses the minerals management service (MMS), part of the federal Department of the Interior, of waving through permission to allow Shell to invest £1.3 billion in Alaskan exploration, disregarding the environmental dangers.
The executive director of Pacific Environment, one of the plaintiff organisations, David Gordon, said:
‘Shell's plan for the Arctic is too much, too soon, too fast, especially in light of community concerns and the effects of climate change that we are already seeing in the Arctic.’
Arctic Frontiers conference
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