Arctic oil drill ban would be ‘irresponsible’: Bildt

As Greenpeace activists' fight to prevent further oil exploration in the Arctic hits Swedish waters, foreign minister Carl Bildt argues that a general ban on drilling in the Arctic would be "irresponsible".

Arctic oil drill ban would be 'irresponsible': Bildt

I think everyone knows that environmental issues are exceptionally important for the period that Sweden holds the Presidency of the Arctic Council.

The Council is an intergovernmental organization that in recent years has become more robust, and after extensive negotiations last year we were able to conclude the first binding agreement between the eight member states. It was about the rescue operations in the Arctic region.

While we were in agreement that the next step would be to launch negotiations on an agreement for cooperation in dealing with the environmental impact of oil exploration in the Arctic, mainly various forms of emissions.

That work is ongoing, and I have every hope that it will be possible to close a deal on time. Norway, the United States, Russia, and Greenland are the ones most closely involved in this work, but environmental organizations also have a seat at the table where these matters are discussed.

In addition we are also working to strengthen prevention efforts related to oil exploration and to protect sensitive areas in the Arctic.

In some quarters, people want us to work toward having all these countries prohibit the extraction of oil in the Arctic Ocean.

This is a point of view which currently has a small chance of success

As long as the extraction is under coastal states’ jurisdiction, they also should have the right to decide. Currently, there is no desire by the coastal states to impose a global moratorium.

We would simply hit our heads against the wall and waste the opportunity for progress that now actually exists when it comes to environmental protection in the Arctic. It would hardly be responsible – especially towards the environment.

In our western neighbor, Norway, these issues have been discussed intensively for a long time, and my impression is that in Norway managed to achieve a good balance between the competing interests.

Awareness of the demands the environment places is very strong.

In Russia there is much that needs to be improved.

The country’s dependence on the extraction of energy in the arctic regions, such as the Yamal Peninsula and Kara Sea, will probably increase, and then the work we have currently launched in the Arctic Council to protect the environment is of the utmost importance.

In May next year we will hand over the Arctic Council presidency to Canada, and when I visit Ottawa as well as the country’s northernmost areas in the coming weeks to, these issues will be the focus of the talks.

Carl Bildt is Sweden’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. This article was originally published in Swedish on the Newsmill opinion website.

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Norway and Sweden join forces to save Arctic fox

Norway and Sweden are combining forces to save the Arctic fox, which is under threat from climate change and the incursion into its territory of the common red fox, which is almost twice the size.

Norway and Sweden join forces to save Arctic fox
One of two Arctic fox cubs released at Dovrefjell in 2007. Photo: Gorm Kallestad/Scanpix

The two countries on Wednesday signed a declaration of intent,  envisaging close cooperation on joint action, transnational fieldwork and joint reporting.

“We are in agreement with the Swedish authorities that it is necessary to take measures to strengthen the Scandinavian arctic fox, so that we can reach a sustainable population,” Lars Andreas Lunde, Secretary of State at Norway's Ministry for Climate and Environment told Norway's NTB news agency

The Arctic fox is one of Scandinavia's most endangered species, with the number of individuals in the wild now numbering in the hundreds rather than the thousands.
The animals are highly dependent on access to small game such as rodents, with the population spiking in years where there are a lot of lemmings.
Climate change also presents a threat to the Arctic fox, as the common red fox is moving further north, competing for prey and in some cases killing arctic foxes and their cubs. 
Norway and Sweden both have breeding programmes aimed at bolstering the remaining population.
Arctic foxes are now being reintroduced into the Dovrefjell national park, where they have not been seen for the last ten to 15 years.
“Through years of dedicated work, primarily through selective breeding programmes for foxes, we have seen a positive development for the Arctic fox in Scandinavia. But the plight of the polar fox still a challenge, and there is still a need for action,” Lunde said.