Russia makes fresh bid for Arctic region which could hold quarter of the Earth's undiscovered fossil fuels

Green Peace warns nations against trying to claim the portion of the Arctic shelf

Kashmira Gander
Wednesday 05 August 2015 08:00 BST
Russia has put forward a new bid for an area of the Arctic shelf
Russia has put forward a new bid for an area of the Arctic shelf (Getty Images)

Russia has put forward a fresh bid to the UN to claim a contentious portion of the Arctic shelf, which is believed to hold up to a quarter of the Earth’s undiscovered oil and gas.

The Kremlin’s foreign ministry said that the government is attempting to claim 1.2million square km (over 463,000 miles) of Arctic sea shelf which stretches over 350 nautical miles (650km) from the shore.

But to secure the huge area, Russia – whose economy is heavily reliant on natural resources - must beat similar assertions by the US, Denmark, Norway and Canada, as well as international energy firms.

And as the shrinking polar ice caps make areas easier to access, the rivalry over Arctic resources will be intense.

In 2002, Russia was the first to stake a claim to the region. But the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf rejected its bid, citing a lack of evidence.

Since then, President Vladimir Putin has made making a claim to the Arctic a top priority, and inturn expanded Moscow's military presence in the area.

In 2007, Moscow symbolically dropped a canister containing a Russian flag on the Arctic Ocean floor from a submarine at the North Pole.

The Russian flag planted in the Arctic Ocean
The Russian flag planted in the Arctic Ocean (AP Photo/Association of Russian Polar Explorers, file)

The Russian foreign ministry has said the new arguments are based on “ample scientific data collected in years of Arctic research”.

Environmental group Greenpeace responded to the announcement by warning of the environmental risks of drilling for oil in the new uncovered areas.

“The melting of the Arctic ice is uncovering a new and vulnerable sea, but countries like Russia and Norway want to turn it into the next Saudi Arabia,” warned Greenpeace Russia Arctic campaigner Vladimir Chuprov in a statement.

“Unless we act together, this region could be dotted with oil wells and fishing fleets within our lifetimes," he added.

He instead called on countries seeking jurisdiction over the portion of the Arctic to come together to protect the North Pole.

Russia expects the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf to start looking at its bid in the fall, the ministry said.

However, UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said the commission does not plan to meet until February or March, and it will be considered by all 193 UN member states.

Additional reporting by Reuters and PA

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