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Government rejects EAC call to end oil and gas exploration in the Arctic

16 March 2019

The Environmental Audit Committee calls on the Government to set out what action it is taking to encourage an end to oil and gas exploration in the Arctic.

In November 2018, the Committee's wide-ranging report, The Changing Arctic, concluded that the UK's support for exploitation of oil and gas reserves in the Arctic is incompatible with its international commitments, including the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement and the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

It recommended that the Government should reconsider its encouragement to UK businesses to explore oil and gas opportunities in the region.

The Government's response to the report, published today, fails to commit to disincentivise companies from undertaking oil and gas exploration in the Arctic, despite such efforts by others including the Canadian Government.

The Chair of the Committee, Mary Creagh MP, has written to Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan to press this issue and others raised in the Government's response, including:

  • The Government's rejection of the Committee's conclusion that it encourages oil and gas exploration in the Arctic. The letter quotes the UK Arctic Strategy, indicating a tacit acceptance by Government of such activity.
  • The Government's support for Arctic research and its failure to provide any reassurance that will continue to support Arctic research post-2020 once the Horizon process has come to an end. The letter requests assurances about longer term support.
  • The Government's failure to explain how it is looking to address the issue of plastic pollution in the Arctic specifically. The letter calls for a timeline for the publication of the consultation on the plastic bottle Deposit Return Scheme as soon as soon as possible.
  • The Government's action to promote the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the Arctic in the short term.

Chair's comments

Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Mary Creagh MP, said:

“The thawing of Arctic ice is leading to ocean acidification, pollution and is derailing global climate goals. The UN's report that Arctic winter temperatures will rise 3-5°C by 2050, even if the Paris climate commitments are met, is a shocking wakeup call for Government.

“Despite this, Ministers continue to tacitly encourage highly damaging oil and gas exploration in the Arctic. UK support for Arctic research post-2020 is in doubt and there is no clarity on what measures the Government is taking to tackle plastic pollution.

“Action cannot wait. We need reassurances from the Minister that we will protect the fragile Arctic environment.”

Further information

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