Cameron criticised for ‘not taking lead’ on Arctic oil fears

Prime Minister David Cameron has been criticised for “not taking the lead” on concerns about the safety of Arctic drilling. The criticism comes as the Government today released its response […]

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By Vicky Ellis

Prime Minister David Cameron has been criticised for “not taking the lead” on concerns about the safety of Arctic drilling. The criticism comes as the Government today released its response to advice about protecting the Arctic.

Last September Parliament’s environment watchdog advised the Government to press for a ban on drilling in the Arctic until oil and gas firms could prove their spill response techniques worked in the extreme conditions.

They also demanded stricter rules to make firms pay more money if there is an oil spill and suggested the international community ring-fence a protected area of the Arctic.

Today the committee’s members were concerned their pleas have been rejected.

Joan Walley, the Labour MP who chairs the cross-party Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) said: “A few years ago the Prime Minister rode with huskies in the Arctic to demonstrate his commitment on environmental issues, but now he is being asked to protect that pristine wilderness for real he has refused to take a lead on the issue.”

She suggested the recent grounding of an oil firm’s rig on its way back from the Arctic only heightened concerns.

Ms Walley said: “The grounding of the Kulluk rig raises serious questions about the safety of Shell’s operations in the Arctic and we will be calling them back into Parliament to give further evidence.”

MPs in the EAC report went on to warn drilling in the Arctic for more oil and gas runs counter to climate change action.

Government challenges this notion in its response, stating: “The world economy will continue to rely on fossil fuels as we transition to a low carbon economy… There need be no inconsistency between extracting more oil and gas from the Arctic (or any other source) and maintaining a 50% chance of meeting our two degree target according to IEA analysis, so long as the overall level of global oil and gas production does not exceed levels needed in a two degree world.”