There was good news this month when the European Parliament passed a resolution supporting the creation of an Arctic Sanctuary covering the vast high Arctic around the North Pole, giving official status to an idea that has been pushed for by Green activists and campaigners for several years.
The proposed sanctuary, lying outside of Exclusive Economic Zones, would cover “one of the largest and least exploited areas on Earth: a 2.8 million square kilometer zone of the global commons,” writes Neil Hamilton, the Senior Political Advisor Polar with Greenpeace Norway. “That would be the biggest conservation zone in existence, protecting fish stocks, ice-dependent species, and a huge variety of cold water species.”
Greenpeace has been campaigning for a global Arctic Sanctuary for several years, including gathering some 5 million signatures from around the world, because there has been rising interest from governments and industries to exploit the once inaccessible wilderness for fish and fossil fuels.
The resolution notes that “climate changes in the Arctic will have a major impact on coastal regions globally, including coastal regions in the European Union, and on climate-dependent sectors in Europe such as agriculture and fisheries, energy, reindeer herding, hunting, tourism and transport.”
In addition to supporting an Arctic Sanctuary, the European Parliament’s resolution would ban fisheries in the high Arctic seas “until the establishment of appropriate regulatory mechanisms and protection.” It also calls for “strict precautionary regulatory standards” when it comes to fossil fuel exploration and extraction in the region.
Last December, Gazprom become the first energy company to begin pumping oil out of the Arctic seabed. In response to this the European Parliament expressed “strong concern regarding the rush for oil exploration and drilling in the Arctic without adequate standards being enforced”.
Pic by Greenpeace
An unexpected thing happened on Wednesday. Shell cancelled its plans to drill this summer in the Alaskan Arctic this year after a series of costly accidents.
“Our decision to pause in 2013 will give us time to ensure the readiness of all our equipment and people,” said Marvin E. Odum of Shell.
President Obama ordered a federal inquiry into Shell’s Arctic drilling programme after the oil company suffered numerous setbacks last year in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, including running its drilling rig aground on Sitkalidak Island, and the US Coast Guard has listed 16 safety violations on the rig.
“This is the first thing Shell’s done right in Alaska — calling it quits,” said Phil Radford, Executive Director of Greenpeace USA. “Now the responsible decision is to make Arctic drilling off limits, forever.”
More than 200 people are blockading a nuclear power station in protest at plans to build new reactors at the site.
Members of several anti-nuclear groups that are part of the Stop New Nuclear alliance say they are barring access to Hinkley Point power station in Somerset in protest against EDF Energy’s plans to renew the site with two new reactors. The new reactors at Hinkley would be the first of eight new nuclear power stations to be built in the UK.
The protesters began their blockade at about 7am on Friday, with a theatrical troupe who “enacted a nuclear disaster scenario similar to Fukushima”, the power plant which was badly damaged during the earthquake which struck Japan on 11 March. Most are local people but demonstrators also came from Belgium and Germany.
Stop New Nuclear spokesman Andreas Speck said: ”This is the start of a new movement. We intend this day to be a celebration of resistance against the Government and EDF Energy’s plans to spearhead the construction of eight new nuclear power plants around the UK.
“This blockade shows that people who understand the true dangers of nuclear power are prepared to use civil disobedience to get their voice heard.”
More than 50 businesses, including household names such as Asda, Sky and PepsiCo, have called on the Government to put in place a 2030 target on decarbonising the power sector.
They argue that such a move – already backed by Labour and the Lib Dems – will stimulate investment and revitalise the UK’s ageing energy infrastructure.
Firms call on Tories to back 2030 carbon target for power sector | Environment | The Guardian.
Good news! Gazprom has announced they are going to delay the start of their oil extraction in the Prirazlomnoye field, in the Arctic Ocean. This comes just a few days after Shell announced they wouldn’t drill in Alaska this year.
Last month Greenpeace activists climbed the side of Prirazlomnaya, Gazprom’s floating oil platform in the Pechora Sea, to protest about oil drilling in the Arctic.
Both Gazprom and Shell will try to start drilling again next year, so ask your family and friends to sign the Save the Arctic petition.