MPs ask if Arctic Council can really protect Arctic

The Arctic Council’s ability to protect the Arctic was questioned by MPs at a hearing in parliament this week. MPs quizzed a representative of the intergovernmental forum which has a primary objective to protect […]

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By Taryn Nixon

The Arctic Council’s ability to protect the Arctic was questioned by MPs at a hearing in parliament this week.

MPs quizzed a representative of the intergovernmental forum which has a primary objective to protect the polar region.

In a 2012 report, MPs called for a halt on oil drilling in the region until better regulations were in place.

Ole Kristian Bjerkemo, who chairs a group for emergency prevention and response for the Arctic Council was called in by the Environmental Audit Committee.

MPs were stumped when he could not provide information on how oil spill guidelines have been improved, at first seeming to suggest only contact details were changed in a recent update. These guidelines are not mandatory for member countries or drillers.

Conservative MP Zac Goldsmith said it was hard to understand what the point of the Arctic Council is, other than being a platform for talking.

Mr Bjerkemo tried to justify the council’s role: “We don’t have any power, we can recommend, we can give advice but enforcement is up to the nations.”

He added: “There is a lot of good documentation about the work we have done, how we try to influence on decision making, it’s up to government to improve safety in the Arctic.”