Well, here’s some amazing news to help close out this rollercoaster of a year: the Canadian government has announced a moratorium on all new oil and gas projects in Canadian Arctic waters for the next five years, and the US government has removed most of its Arctic waters from oil and gas leasing permanently (you can see the map here).
This is a really big deal. Just a few years ago it was accepted wisdom that nothing could stop the oil rush in the Arctic, and now both the US and Canadian governments are putting some serious breaks on industry ambitions.
It wouldn’t have happened without years of campaigning, activism, and contributions from countless people all around the world pitching in in ways big and small. If you’re reading this blog there’s a good chance you’re one of those people, so thank you, this is your victory.
But this is far from the end of the fight to protect the Arctic from the depredations of the oil industry. The Canadian announcement does not affect existing projects nor industry plans to carry out seismic blasting in Baffin Bay, which could begin as soon as this summer. And we need to make the moratorium permanent. The government has said they will develop a new policy towards the Arctic, and we need to keep their feet to the fire to make sure they put sustainability and human rights at the forefront, and enact a permanent and comprehensive ban on oil industry activities throughout Canadian Arctic waters.
We should not forget that this announcement, positive as it is, comes from the same government that just approved two major tar sands pipelines, despite the fact that they are completely incompatible with Canada’s climate commitments and have not received consent from First Nations. The Trudeau government may be taking some good steps, but they’re taking some very bad steps at the same time. Going one step forward and two back will not get us where we need to go.
Prime Minister Trudeau is still in denial about the fact that fighting climate change requires us to leave most fossil fuels in the ground, halt the construction of major new fossil fuel infrastructure projects such as pipelines, and oversee a rapid, managed decline of the oil industry in step with a ramping up of the renewable energy sector. So long as he refuses to accept this, we must continue to fight.
Next year will be a big one as our movement works to stop seismic blasting in the Arctic, stop the Kinder Morgan pipeline and expansion of the tar sands, and fight for the green and peaceful future we know is possible.
Victories like the one this week remind us what incredible things we can accomplish together, and help us imagine what incredible things we can accomplish in the years to come.