UK accused of ignoring crisis in the Arctic
WWF experts warn Britain is lagging behind Europe in dealing with 'new world' challenges
Michael McCarthy, formerly the Independent’s longstanding Environment Editor, now its Environment Columnist, is one of Britain’s leading writers on the environment and the natural world. He has won a string of awards for his work, including Environment Journalist of the Year (three times) and Specialist Writer of the Year in the British Press Awards in 2001. In 2007 he was awarded the Medal of the RSPB for “Outstanding Services to Conservation,” in 2010 he was awarded the Silver Medal of the Zoological Society of London, and in 2011 the Dilys Breeze Medal of the British Trust for Ornithology. In 2009 McCarthy published Say Goodbye To The Cuckoo (John Murray), a study of Britain’s declining migrant birds.
Tuesday 27 September 2011
Britain needs to pay far more attention to the Arctic and the "new world" of the Far North, a group of experts warned yesterday.
Government ministers are showing no interest in the region David Cameron chose to define his image – on his celebrated sled-and-husky trip after he became Conservative leader – even though it is now one of the most rapidly changing areas of the world. It presents many opportunities but also looming environmental and diplomatic difficulties, the conference in London, organised by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF-UK), was told.
Valuable oil and mineral extraction, new shipping routes, new fishing grounds, border disputes, the rights of native peoples and environmental dangers are all on the horizon in the region surrounding the North Pole, as the sea ice of the Arctic Ocean melts with climate change, and the area is opened up. Yet Britain is lagging far behind other countries in engaging with the issues, a series of experts told the meeting.
Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel held an Arctic summit earlier this year, and France has appointed a special representative for the polar regions, the meeting heard, yet Britain leaves its policy matters to the Polar Regions Unit of the Foreign Office – which deals with Antarctica as well and the Antarctic Treaty governing the southern continent – and has a total staff of seven officials.
The conference, entitled "On Thin Ice – Principles for the UK in a Changing Arctic", put forward a set of principles, drafted by WWF-UK and other environmental groups, to which Britain should adhere in dealing with Arctic issues. They included the suggestion that Britain should back a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the Far North, as this is "incompatible with the UK's commitment to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels and limit the damaging effects of climate change". This is likely to be too late as a British company, Cairn Energy, is leading the way in offshore oil prospecting in the Arctic and has been drilling exploratory wells this summer in the seas off Greenland.
Other suggested principles included the control of shipping activities, the promotion of sustainable fisheries, respect for the rights of the indigenous Inuit peoples and support for the conservation of migratory wildlife species.
Britain does have an articulated policy for the Far North, laid down in a short Foreign Office document entitled "The UK's Engagement in the Arctic", which sets out what key British interests are – they include "the potential of the Arctic to strengthen energy security and the sustainable use and safe extraction of resources".
But speakers charged that the Government was really interested in resources such as oil, to the exclusion of other matters set out in the document, such as the protection of the Arctic ecosystem, or the management of new shipping routes or fishing grounds.
"There has been little engagement by ministers on the other issues," said Shane Tomlinson, of the environmental think-tank E3G. "The UK could play a very much larger role in shaping the European Arctic agenda than it is doing at present."
elephant appealThe first 23 lots in our charity auction have now gone. But there are 22 more still up for grabs
elephant appealPrince William signs up for our charity appeal
elephant appealSo says man jailed for cutting off dead elephant's tusks
voicesPeople moan that Christmas is too commercial, the spirit lost. But it is a time to over-indulge, and always has been, says DJ Taylor
booksWe examine the best titles for teens
scienceResearchers teach border collie to understand sentences using more than 1,000 words
booksA Christmas story in six parts
travelWill high-value tourism help the workshops of this Renaissance city?
food + drinkA trifle without custard? Surely not! Nonsense – and here’s three to finish your festive meal that prove it
Geoffrey Macnab does not like the comedian's big screen debut
Charity Appeal: 'The way to stop poaching is to use people like me,' says man jailed for cutting off dead elephant's tusks
The good news: there has been a dramatic increase in Arctic sea ice. The bad news: it's still half the level is was in the 1980s
The 10 best folding bikes
‘Hell for animals’: Egypt's Giza Zoo beset by tear gas, bear ‘riots’ and giraffe ‘suicide’
10 best hiking boots
- 1 Top PR exec Justine Sacco under fire for sending racist tweet before flying to Africa
- 2 French pub fined €9,000 after customers returned empties to bar - because it's 'undeclared labour'
- 3 Sun will 'flip upside down' within weeks, says Nasa
- 4 The publisher who played with fire: the battle for control of Larsson's £30m legacy
- 5 Police seize possessions of rough sleepers in crackdown on homelessness
Tom Daley ‘is gay because his father died’ says UK evangelist
Iain Duncan Smith leaves Commons food banks debate early
David Cameron takes his biggest gamble yet as he gets tough on Europe over immigration
Kiss and yell: Italian protester charged with sexual assault after kissing riot police officer
Top PR exec Justine Sacco under fire for sending racist tweet before flying to Africa
Anachronistic and iniquitous, grammar schools are a blot on the British education system
- < Previous
- Next >
£32999 - £42001 per annum + Benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Are you a newly q...
£90000 per annum + benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: Manager - Financial Servic...
£35000 - £45000 per annum + benefits: Pro-Recruitment Group: My client, a Top ...
Negotiable: Capita Education Resourcing Permanent Team: Key Stage 1 Leader- Gi...