Greenpeace challenges closed-door meeting of Arctic “petroleum club”

Feature story - March 29, 2010
As five foreign ministers hole up in the Gatineau Hills today to divide the resources beneath the Arctic Ocean, Greenpeace calls on them to provide a much more transparent process for discussing the need for greater protection for the fragile Arctic region. Greenpeace activists are on the road leading to the meeting venue with a banner reading ‘Arctic Future: Not Behind Closed Doors’.

Billed as an opportunity for nations bordering the Arctic coastline to discuss economic and environmental development, the “Arctic Club” meeting is restricted to the foreign ministers of Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States.

“The foreign ministers attending the Arctic Club meeting should focus on protecting the fragile Arctic Ocean environment in an open and transparent way, halt industrial activities in the Arctic and endorse a precautionary governance system for the region,” said Beth Hunter, Greenpeace oceans coordinator. “Instead, this self-appointed, exclusive Arctic Club is meeting behind closed doors without the participation of indigenous communities, other concerned countries, and environmental groups, focusing on carving up the petroleum pie rather than ensuring a sustainable future for the Arctic.”

Global climate change is already having disastrous impacts on the Arctic. The world needs to protect an area that is losing its permanent sea ice instead of unleashing the destruction of extracting fossil fuels and causing more greenhouse gas emissions. Greenpeace calls for a moratorium on oil and gas exploration and large-scale fishing operations so that the Arctic can continue to sustain its inhabitants and remain intact. The Arctic Ocean region helps regulate climate and weather patterns.

Greenpeace has written the five ministers and urged them to hold future meetings under the auspices of the Arctic Council, the United Nations or other global and transparent bodies.

“The future of the Arctic is vital to us all, from the Inuit and other peoples who inhabit it to the low-lying nations and island nations that will suffer from sea level rises caused by climate change,” said Hunter.  “The Arctic Club nations need to consider the long-term impacts of their decisions, not just short-term profits from exploitation.”

Greenpeace is campaigning globally for a global network of marine reserves to cover 40 per cent of the world’s oceans and protect them from all extractive activities. This is a necessary first step in restoring the health of oceans and maintaining robust fish stocks.