Greenpeace dumps on Arctic Council’s Kiruna Declaration

“The Arctic Council should be a forum for preventing environmental disasters”


A sign promoting a ban on oil development in the Arctic from Greenpeace in Kiruna, Sweden. (FILE PHOTO)

A sign promoting a ban on oil development in the Arctic from Greenpeace in Kiruna, Sweden. (FILE PHOTO)

As Canada officially took the chair of the Arctic Council in Kiruna, Sweden, May 15, Greenpeace sent a direct message to Canada.

Greenpeace said in a May 15 statement that the Arctic Council is intended to be a forum for ensuring the sustainability and environmental protection of the region, but said “the Harper government has indicated that it will use the forum to advance industrial development in the Arctic.”

“We will not stand by and let the Harper government use the next two years to advance its destructive industrial agenda at the Arctic Council,” said Christy Ferguson, Arctic campaign coordinator with Greenpeace Canada. “If Harper plans to do to the Arctic what he’s done to Canada, anyone who cares about the future of this fragile region should be scared.”

Greenpeace said it has launched “an international mobilization online” calling on Canada to put people and the environment before oil companies.

Greenpeace said that, despite strong calls for more action from its own working groups and scientists and many of the ministers attending the meeting, the Arctic Council meeting ended with no plans for binding international agreements to regulate black carbon [soot] emissions or curb what it called “the Arctic oil rush.

“The lack of environmental action laid out at today’s meeting is alarming, especially when paired with Canadian officials’ statements about industry needing more of a say over the future of the Arctic,” Ferguson said.

“Decisions about what is safe and sustainable for this region should not be made by companies determined to profit off its destruction. The Arctic Council should be a forum for preventing environmental disasters like oil spill and fighting climate change — not facilitating them.”

Kiera Kolson, an Arctic outreach campaigner with Greenpeace and a member of the Dene Nation, said “Leona Aglukkaq does not speak for all the people of the North —especially not when she’s pushing destructive industrial development in a place already disrupted by climate change.”

In Ottawa, Greenpeace volunteers brought a life-like polar bear to Parliament Hill and held banners reading “Harper: Arctic Drilling=Spilling” and “Canada: Don’t destroy the Arctic too” comparing the potential of an environmental disaster in the Arctic to the toxic reality of the tar sands in Alberta.

Greenpeace said that over the next two years, Canada and the Arctic Council must deliver “concrete results protecting the environment and the people who rely on it.”

Greenpeace wants the Arctic Council to:

• agree to develop new, binding common standards to apply to offshore oil and gas drilling, including a ban on oil drilling in the Arctic, as it is not possible to intervene to prevent a spill or clean up the event of a spill;

• undertake new, urgent action to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of Arctic states, including but not restricted to action to reduce emissions of black carbon;

• take action on marine reserves, including supporting the establishment of a global sanctuary in the central Arctic Ocean, as part of an enhanced plan to protect Arctic biodiversity;

• tackle the risks from unsustainable industrial fishing; and,

• a review of the transparency and inclusiveness of the Arctic Council.

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