EU urged to guard against Arctic resource rush

Posted on 20 November 2008    
A new WWF-supported report shows that Norwegian killer whales are the most toxic mammals in the Arctic.
© WWF / William W. Rossiter
Brussels, Belgium - The communication on the European Union and the Arctic region released today’s by the European Commission is seen by WWF as an important contribution to the goal of ensuring that the Arctic is not destroyed by a new natural resources rush.

However, WWF has noted the intention of some countries and oil companies to exploit arctic petroleum resources. In consideration of its fragile arctic environment, and the complete lack of any technical ability to clean up oil spills in ice covered waters, WWF calls for a moratorium on oil development in the Arctic at least until such clean up ability has been demonstrated.

“Many arctic species are already under stress from human activities and climate change. There is a strong need for avoiding additional pressures on the environment caused by unsustainable exploitative activities. The Arctic requires a shared approach to governance with ecosystems conservation as a core value to the benefit of future generations,” says Neil Hamilton, Director of WWF International’s Arctic Programme.

The Arctic is on the threshold of historically unprecedented, potentially dangerous ecological change which will have global repercussions. The most prominent change is the severely accelerated melting of the arctic sea ice, which opens new opportunities for the exploitation of arctic resources such as expanded oil and gas development, new commercial fishing and increased shipping.

“We are concerned that the present set of rules for the Arctic are not strong enough or broad enough to ensure environmental protection and sustainability for the region,” Hamilton continued.

“We have seen the damage caused by historical resource rushes in this region, and we are concerned that with the impacts of climate change already being felt, any new development in the Arctic must be carefully managed. This means a comprehensive seamless approach to arctic governance rather than the current patchwork of treaties and agreement.”

The communication echoes WWF’s position that the Arctic environment requires preservation, that any use of its resources should be sustainable, and that a shared and strengthened approach to arctic governance is required besides the basic principles provided by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The Commission communication follows a resolution passed recently by the European Parliament that also calls for improvements to arctic governance and is the basis for the development of an EU Arctic policy.

For further information:
Clive Tesar, Head of Communications
WWF International Arctic Programme
Tel: +47 9262 3030
Claudia Delpero, Communications Manager
WWF European Policy Office
Tel: +32 2 740 09 25

A new WWF-supported report shows that Norwegian killer whales are the most toxic mammals in the Arctic.
© WWF / William W. Rossiter Enlarge

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