WWF calls for moratorium on Arctic exploration

The WWF, responding to a recent EC policy paper on the Arctic, has called for a moratorium on oil and gas exploration and development in the region until the capability has been developed for handling spillage.

Eric Watkins
Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Dec. 2 -- The World Wildlife Fund, responding to a recent European Commission policy paper on the Arctic, has called for a moratorium on oil and gas exploration and development in the region until the capability has been developed for handling spillage.

"Many arctic species are already under stress from human activities and climate change," said Neil Hamilton, director of WWF International's Arctic program. "There is a strong need for avoiding additional pressures on the environment caused by unsustainable exploitative activities."

WWF said 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," it said.

According to Hamilton, WWF is "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."

WWF was responding to a European Commission policy paper on the Arctic released by the European Union External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner, who said the EU is interested in exploiting the Arctic's undiscovered oil and gas reserves.

However, Ferrero Waldner stressed that any EU moves in the region would not endanger the local environment or local native populations.

"The EU is ready…to keep the right balance between the priority goal of preserving the environment and the need for sustainable use of natural resources," she said.

Ferrero-Waldner said recent US surveys "estimate that up to 25% of the planet's undiscovered oil and gas could be located" in the region and that a share of those reserves would ease EU dependence on imports of oil and gas from Russia.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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