The arrest of 28 Greenpeace activists protesting Arctic oil exploration in Russian waters has attracted the world’s attention. It seemed like this would bring more support for the fight against exploration into the Arctic, but the UK has moved in the opposite direction and announced that it plans to become a global centre of expertise for Arctic oil exploration.
The British Foreign Office published a document on Thursday detailing its intention to use its expertise garnered from decades of exploring for oil in the harsh conditions of the North Sea to turn the country into the prime hub for any companies thinking of exploring for oil and gas in the Arctic seas.
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A ship battles against the swell just near to an oil platform in the North Sea. The North Sea is one of the most inhospitable locations for oil drilling on the planet, giving the UK great expertise to be offered to any attempting Arctic oil exploration.
The Foreign Office wrote that it would work to “facilitate responsible business activity in the region by UK companies. The UK government will promote the UK as a centre of commercial expertise with direct relevance to many industries that are growing in the Arctic.”
The UK will be able to use its expertise to build oil and gas platforms, provide financial and legal advice, and shipping services as more ice melts opening up more of the Arctic for passage of goods, or new areas of exploration.
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Although this strong support for Arctic exploration will certainly anger environmental activists, the British ministers have stated that any activities in the region would have to be carried out in a responsible manner that minimises the threat to the environment.
Mark Simmonds, the Arctic minister at the Foreign Office, said that, whilst we are not part of the Arctic Council “we are the Arctic's nearest neighbour and we have long-standing environmental and commercial interest there. Our climate, migrating birds, fishing and shipping industry, and energy needs are all reasons why what happens in the Arctic is of vital interest to us.”
Rod Downey, the head of UK marine policy at the WWF, even said that “the UK's new Arctic policy is a welcome step towards the conservation of one of our largest wilderness regions, and could in time serve as a model for other nations with emerging interests in the Arctic. But it also exposes the lack of coherence in Whitehall over climate and energy policy. Instead of looking to high risk Arctic oil and gas for energy 'security', the UK government, and governments and industry across the world, must heed the warning signs from the rapidly changing Arctic by acting with urgency and ambition to tackle climate change and transition to a renewable future.”
By. James Burgess of Oilprice.com