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Benno Hansen
Benno Hansen

Moscow Arctic Forum promises peaceful exploitation, silent on risks

During the end of September the "Arctic nations" - Canada, Russia, Norway, the United States and Denmark - met in Moscow to agree on territorial claims. (Strangely, I didn't notice any coverage at all in Danish media - while even Al-Jazeera warmed up for it.)

"Serious political and economic interests are indeed crossing over in the Arctic. But I have no doubt that problems, including the continental shelf problem, can be solved in the spirit of partnership. It is well known that it is difficult to survive in the Arctic on your own. Nature itself makes people, nations and states help each other there. Unfortunately we are faced with alarmist predictions of a looming battle for the Arctic. We are monitoring the situation and making responsible forecasts."

- Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin

"No one problem of contemporary Arctic can be resolved by one country alone. So that's why I think that we are doomed to co-operate in the Arctic. And military confrontation especially is completely counterproductive." - Russian Arctic expert Lev Voronkov

Russia plans to invest 312.8 billion US dollars on exploration and promise extra tax breaks for oil corporations wanting to do business in the Arctic. They have sent a submarine to plant the Russian flag on the sea bed but complain about NATO's presence.

The Arctic is thought to contain 25% of the planet's undiscovered oil and gas, about 200 billion barrels of oil.

"The industry has been around the world discovering easy oil and gas there are only the more difficult and riskier regions left - and the Arctic is one of them"

- Manouchehr Takin, Centre For Global Energy Studies

"It is a reckless prospecting endeavour, trying to find new oil reserves in this fragile and pristine environment" - Greenpeace protestor

I am reminded of George Monbiot's speech at Klimaforum09 (alternative COP15):

"If governments were serious about climate change [...] they would be putting proposals here at Copenhagen this week to determine which parts of carbon reserves would be left in the ground. [...] they would also be proposing a total global moratorium on all prospecting for new reserves of coal, oil and gas."

We have already found more than enough fossil fuel reserves to cause extreme climate change. We don't need the Arctic reserves to do that. A fact so blindingly obvious since they are only becoming accessible because of the melting ice caps.

Sources include: Reuters / Russia's Putin urges Arctic resources deal, BBC / Arctic summit in Moscow hears rival claims and BBC / Melting ice opens up potential for Arctic exploitation.

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Let's hope this can be resolved both peacefully and collaboratively. May feeling is that the Artic should remain untouched but this is obviously not going to happen. If nations can work together at the very least potential environmental catastophies have more chance of being avoided.

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