Today kicks off the 9th Conference of Artctic Parliamentarians in Brussels. Members of the European Parliament and Members of Parliament from all countries with a boundary on the Arctic – the United States, Canada, Russia Iceland, Denmark, Finland, Sweden and Norway – are in attendance.
Politicians must think
Bellona’s Hauge has been invited to speak on behalf of the European environmental movement at a reception in the European Parliament hosted by Diana Wallis tonight, to discuss a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Arctic.
Wallis is Vice-Precident in the European Parliament, and will also speak at the event. So will Paul Nemitz, Head of Unit, Maritime Policy for the Atlantic Ocean, the Arctic and the Outermost Region in DG Mare, and Riikka Manner, Chair of the Arctic Subgroup in the European Parliament.
“This is an important opportunity to talk to European, American and Russian politicians about how sad it is if the Arctic is to become a playground for the oil industry,” says Hauge.
Arctic particularly vulnerable
The cold, harsh weather leads many to believe that the Arctic is an area that can withstand an extra environmental burden. But the Arctic’s ecosystem is fragile, and the total environmental load on the Arctic is already high.
The Arctic is exposed to chemicals that arrive with air and ocean currents, radioactivity, and pollution from shipping traffic. Huge temperature changes in a short time are another challenge. Higher temperatures are disturbing the balance of Arctic sea life, and increased acidification due to the large amounts of CO2 uptake in Arctic seas are also matters of concern.
“The ice shelf zones are highly productive and important for the production of many species. Should these sites be destroyed it could have serious consequences,” says Hauge.
Accidents and leaks
The oil industry has a steady stream of accidents and leaks even while its claims to work with “zero emissions,” and the danger of a catastrophic accident is ever present.
“The accident with the Deepwater Horizon showed how disastrously poorly the oil industry controls its operations. It is madness to let the oil industry into the Arctic, “says Hauge.
“In addition it is not particularly progressive to aim for petroleum production in the Arctic, if you are a politician who really wants to cut CO2 emissions.
Norwegians should listen
This summer, Bellona together with the European Environmental Bureau ( EEB ) and WWF demanded that the European Parliament call for a moratiorum for all gas and oil exploration in the Arctic areas.
Following this, EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger said that any responsible government should immediately freeze all new permits for offshore drilling in Europe.
“It was a positive signal which must now be followed up. In particular, Norwegian politicians should listen carefully to Oettinger instead of being so eager to drill in the Arctic,” says Hauge.
Norway’s Statoil in the Arctic
As the oil industry’s desire for ever-new areas intensifies, and the ice melts because of global warming, the oil industry and several governments are ready to start oil and gas activities in the Arctic.
Norway’s partly state-owned Statoil has already started drilling in Arctic Canada and Alaska, and is involved in surveys off the east coast of Greenland.
Statoil is also involved in gas industry plans in Russia’s contentious Shtokman field, which lies in the Arctic.
Dividing line on Wednesday
The Norwegian oil industry – and several Norwegian politicians – are looking forward to and additional amount of territory that the boundary agreement with Russia to be signed Wednesday this week will give them. As soon as it became known that there was an agreement pending between Russia and Norway, Norway’s Petroleum and Energy Department began to prepare a mapping of petroleum resources in the Barents Sea.
“This is another area where the very first thing to be made is a proper environmental assessment, “says Hauge.