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”.