EAC: Government has rejected calls to end oil and gas exploration in the Arctic

The Environmental Audit Committee says fossil fuel activity in the region is incompatible with international climate obligations

Oil rig in the Arctic

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) says the UK Government has rejected its calls to end oil and gas exploration in the Arctic.

The Committee published a report last November claiming the UK’s support for “exploitation of oil and gas reserves in the Arctic” is incompatible with international climate obligations.

The government has responded but the EAC said it still fails to commit to disincentivise companies from undertaking fossil fuel exploration in the region.

The Chair of the Committee, Mary Creagh MP has now written to Foreign Office Minister Sir Alan Duncan to press the issue, questioning the government’s alleged rejection of the EAC’s conclusion that it encourages oil and gas exploration in the Arctic and its supposed failure to provide reassurance that it will continue to support Arctic research post-2020.

The Committee has also urged the government to address the issue of plastic pollution in the Arctic and called for a timeline for the publication of the consultation on the plastic bottle Deposit Return Scheme.

Chair of the EAC, Mary Creagh MP, said: “The thawing of Arctic ice is leading to ocean acidification, pollution and is derailing global climate goals. The UN’s report that Arctic winter temperatures will rise 3-5°C by 2050, even if the Paris climate commitments are met, is a shocking wake-up call for government.

“Despite this, ministers continue to tacitly encourage highly damaging oil and gas exploration in the Arctic. Action cannot wait. We need reassurances from the Minister that we will protect the fragile Arctic environment.”

The Foreign Office said they would provide a response to the letter in due course but have previously said on this issue: “Any suggestion that we are not committed to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement is nonsense. We do not actively encourage oil and gas exploration in the Arctic.

“We have decarbonised our economy faster than any other G20 nation and were the first in the world to put in place legally binding targets to reduce our emissions. We are clear that all countries must set ambitious targets for reducing emissions, including Arctic States and we continue to push for this at the highest levels.

“The UK is a world leader on tackling climate change, but we must do more.”

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