UK must 'assert interests in Arctic'

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 27 February 2015 in News

House of Lords committee urges Government to avoid being "outmanoeuvred" as temperatures rise

With temperatures rising faster in the Arctic than the rest of the world the UK must act quickly to avoid being "outmanoeuvred" as states rush to assert their interests in the region, according to a House of Lords Committee.

In their Responding to a changing Arctic report, the House of Lords Arctic Committee warned that climate change “will have a massive impact on the region’s environment, ecosystems and people and presents both huge challenges and opportunities.”

The report found that that 30 per cent of the world’s undiscovered, recoverable gas and 13 per cent of undiscovered, recoverable oil supplies are located in the Arctic, suggesting that the current drop in global energy prices provides a window to examine whether oil and gas can be extracted from ice-affected Arctic waters.

The Committee urged the Government to follow the example of France, Singapore and Japan in appointing an Ambassador for the Arctic, warning that Russia’s recent foreign policy suggests peaceful cooperation in the Arctic may not continue indefinitely.

Lord Teverson, Chairman of the Committee, said: “We should move to appoint an Ambassador for the Arctic as soon as possible. Our competitor nations including France and Japan already have one and we risk losing influence in the region if we do not. Two key roles for the Ambassador would be to co-ordinate UK Arctic policy across Government and to champion UK interests in the Arctic. 

“We also have serious concerns about the potential opening up of fishing in the central Arctic Ocean caused by a reduction in sea ice. We are calling for a ban on fishing there at least until more research is undertaken and we have a better understanding of the eco-systems that will be affected. We need to get a proper management regime in place for the central Arctic Ocean now, before the area is opened to the risk of over-fishing.”

The report also highlights concerns over melting ice releasing additional methane from the seabed and permafrost, and the corresponding effects on world climate.

It urges the Government to commit to substantially increasing funding for British Arctic science through the Research Councils.

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