Leave gas and oil in the ground, environmental groups tell Arctic foreign ministers
"We need to move away from fossil‐fuel based economies"
(updated at 4:45 p.m.)
As the foreign ministers of Canada, the United States, Norway, Denmark, Greenland and Russia prepare to meet tomorrow at the Arctic Council‘s meeting in Nuuk, a coalition of environmental groups from Canada, the U.S., Russia, Greenland, Denmark and Norway wants them to place a moratorium on offshore drilling in Arctic waters.
The open letter, delivered May 9 to the ministers, says political leaders must start “leaving fossil fuel deposits in the ground” to avoid serious impacts from climate change.
“The severity of the climate crisis means we will have to leave identified fossil fuel deposits in the ground. Simultaneously, we need to move away from fossil‐fuel based economies,” says the May 9 letter supported by groups including Greenland’s Avataq, Friends of the Earth in Denmark, Greenpeace in Denmark, Friends of the Earth in Norway, Greenpeace Norway, Russia’s Kola Environmental Center, the Council of Canadians, the Indigenous Environmental Network, Yukon Conservation Society, the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council, Friends of the Earth, Global Exchange, and the Indigenous Environmental Network.
“The Arctic is known to contain large oil and gas reserves, a significant portion of which is found offshore,” it says. “As you know, melting sea ice is making Arctic waters more accessible for transportation and resource development leading the Arctic to increasingly being framed as a ‘final frontier’ for fossil fuel development.”
The group demonstrated in front of the foreign affairs department in Ottawa on May 11 to get their message across.
“We want to send a message to Arctic coastal state governments and the Arctic Council that offshore drilling in the Arctic is the wrong way to go,” said Andrea Harden-Donahue of the Council of Canadians in a news release.
The groups signing the May 9 letter want ministers at the the Arctic Council meeting to move against offshore drilling and find other ways to encourage economic development.
Drilling in cold Arctic waters comes at increased and unacceptable risks, they say.
“Oil and gas production is never risk-free and the consequences in Arctic waters would be disastrous” said Aase Refsnes, Arctic advisor with Friends of the Earth, Norway.
“Offshore drilling in the Arctic threatens to have devastating impacts on fragile ice edge ecosystems upon which indigenous peoples and coastal communities rely for food security, economic, social and cultural needs” said Faith Gemmill of the Resisting Environmental Destruction on Indigenous Lands Network, based in Alaska.
The letter also reminds governments they need to respect the internationally recognized right of indigenous peoples “to free, prior and informed consent” in all stages of the pursuit of oil and gas in the Arctic that impacts indigenous peoples and their lands.
“Fishery and petroleum industries are conflicting and we need to protect the resources depended on for our livelihood” says Elena Kruglikova, with the Kola Environmental Center of Russia.
Oil rigs operated by Cairn Energy have already moved into place off west Greenland’s coast to continue drilling for oil at four main wells. Greenland’s cabinet approved the drilling earlier this week.