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Cross party support for end to Arctic oil drilling

20 September 2012

 A cross-party committee of MPs has called for a halt on oil and gas drilling in the Arctic until stronger safeguards are put in place. The report coincides with the newly announced record low for Arctic sea ice extent, shared by the US National Snow and Ice Data Centre (NSIDC). The figures show that sea ice levels are nearly half of what existed in the Arctic thirty years ago when satellite records began.

Each year the Arctic sea ice reaches its annual minimum before it starts to refreeze and reform ahead of winter. But climate models now predict that the Arctic could be virtually free of summer sea ice within a generation, largely due to climate change.

Today’s calls to halt Arctic oil and gas drilling could not have come at a more crucial time for the region. This week, Shell announced that a critical part of its so-called Arctic containment system had been damaged during testing. Rod Downie, polar expert at WWF-UK said:

“This is further evidence that Shell’s pursuit of hydrocarbons in the Arctic is reckless. It is completely irresponsible to drill for oil in such a fragile environment; there are simply too many unmanageable risks.”

The Committee has also recognised WWF-UK’s call for a clear, cross-cutting UK Arctic strategy. Such a strategy would set out the UK’s role in the region and reconcile the lack of strategic thinking and policy coherence across Whitehall – where on the one hand the government acknowledges the need to cut emissions is, but continues to look to Arctic oil and gas for energy security. “Clearly the two are incompatible” said Downie.

“The Arctic is facing rapid meltdown and today, with this report, we’ve seen politicians from all sides working together to consult scientists, stakeholders and civil society. Now the UK Government, and governments and industries across the world need to heed the warning signs from the Arctic and act with urgency and ambition to tackle climate change.”

With the speed of change we are now witnessing in the Arctic, WWF-UK is calling on the UK government to show national and global leadership in the urgent transition away from fossil fuels to a low carbon economy.


Notes to Editors:

About WWF’s Global Arctic Programme;
WWF is working with its many partners – governments, business and communities – across the Arctic to combat these threats and preserve the region’s rich biodiversity. The WWF Global Arctic Programme has coordinated WWF's work in the Arctic since 1992. We work through offices in six Arctic countries, with experts in circumpolar issues like governance, climate change, fisheries, oil and gas and polar bears. www.panda.org/arctic

About WWF:
WWF is one of the world’s largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with almost five million supporters and a global network active in more than 100 countries. WWF’s mission is to stop the degradation of the earth’s natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world’s biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption.

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