Sunday, 13 October 2013

Arctic protection needs greater urgency

 I sent this  letter to The Sunday Times, but they declined to publish it.

I was pleased Camilla Cavendish shined an important light on the debate over fossil fuel extraction from the Arctic (“We merely stand and shrug while 30 protesters battle to save the Arctic,” last week, 6 October).
However, she needs to expand her evidence base in respect of whether anyone is concerned about this beyond her immediate family and friends (“Not a single colleague or relative has raised this issue with me except my nine year old son”).
But she is right to point out that Ministers have rejected calls by the all-party Environmental Audit Committee of MPs for a moratorium on drilling for oil in the Arctic.
The MPs said they were “disappointed  with the Government’s response failed to grasp the urgency of action needed, or set out an enhanced role for the UK in arctic matters.”
In oral evidence in January commenting on the Government response, Ruth Davis, chief policy advisor for Greenpeace emphasized “the areas that we particularly want to draw attention to are a concern that they specifically do not address the growing body of evidence that suggests it would not be possible to respond to an oil spill in lots of Arctic conditions.”
In July Green Party MP Dr Caroline Lucas, who has raised Arctic protection several times in Parliament over the past few years, asked the energy department if it would  make it their policy to support the creation of a global sanctuary in the Arctic off limits to new oil and gas exploitation?
She was told by energy minister Michael Fallon that the Government is “pressing for a new Implementing Agreement under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea for the regulation of the protection of marine biodiversity in areas beyond National Jurisdiction. In the event that this becomes a reality, the Government will work with the Arctic Council, Arctic states and the UN to establish whether there is a scientific basis for an internationally recognised marine protected area in the Arctic. (Hansard, 16 July 2013 : Column 580W)
Greenpeace’s brave direct action in the Arctic Ocean to highlight the potential catastrophe from  such oil exploration as is  being carried out by Russian energy  company Gazprom, shows a greater  sense of urgency than  our energy ministers.

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