UK Government Accused Of Being Complacent Over Arctic Drilling
July 29, 2013

Environmental Group Accuses UK Of Being “Complacent” Regarding Arctic Drilling

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

The UK government has been accused by a coalition of environmental advocates of failing to protect the Arctic from oil and gas drilling, allowing projects to commence without performing adequate risk assessment.

According to the Belfast Telegraph, Members of Parliament (MPs) on the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) have accused the coalition government of "complacently standing by" while drilling projects commence despite the potential harm they could cause to the climate and the environment.

EAC members called for a halt to new drilling, BBC News added, citing oil companies have not yet proven they would be able to clean up an oil spill in the harsh conditions found in the Arctic region. As a result of the risks, the MPs argued exploring for potential new fossil fuel resources in the northernmost polar region was "needlessly risky."

"This government is complacently standing by and watching new oil and gas drilling in the region, even though companies like Shell cannot prove they could clean up an oil spill in such harsh conditions," committee chairwoman Joan Walley told Guardian Environment Correspondent Fiona Harvey.

"[And] the government has failed to provide a coherent argument to support its view that exploring for oil and gas in the Arctic is compatible with avoiding dangerous climate destabilization," she added, citing the Kulluk incident from earlier this year. In that incident, one of Shell's vessels ran aground in Alaska, and while there was no oil spill, an investigation into the occurrence discovered the company's safety procedures were lacking.

Walley and her colleagues are also calling UK Prime Minister David Cameron to return to the Arctic, where he had previously been photographed with a team of huskies in 2006, said Tom Bawden of the Independent. The EAC said Cameron had failed to act decisively to help prevent drilling, despite previously stating he would lead a "new green revolution" and head-up "the greenest government ever."

According to the BBC, the government responded it was not its place to dictate whether or not Arctic states could extract specific resources. A spokesman added Cameron's administration was "very aware" of the potential ecological impact of an oil spill, and the government's approach to Arctic drilling was "consistent with our commitment to limit average global temperature increase to two degrees."

A recent report from the International Energy Agency (IEA) cautioned if two-thirds of existing fossil fuel reserves are burned before the year 2050, global temperatures would increase by more than 2 degrees Celsius, surpassing the so-called dangerous threshold for climate change. In addition, scientists reported earlier this week a large amount of methane from thawing Arctic permafrost could have a $60 trillion economic impact - approximately the same size as the global economy in 2012, BBC News said.