Lords Detect a More Demanding Arctic – Urge Greater UK Engagement in the Region

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In the face of increased maritime traffic

The report also addresses the risks and opportunities in increased economic activity and shipping in Arctic waters in light of the rapid warming of the region.

“As the Arctic’s nearest neighbor, the UK has a great interest in protecting fragile ecosystems and ensuring that all economic activities are conducted sustainably. The expected expansion of Arctic shipping will especially increase the risk of accidents and pollution,” says Lord Ashton.

He and the committee’s other members encourage the British government to cooperate with Arctic allies in strengthening search and rescue capabilities – and take on a leading role in negotiating a new polar code for regulating Arctic shipping.

“Strengthening the shipping regulation and ensuring adequate search and rescue infrastructure requires close international cooperation with Arctic states, industry, and other interested parties. The international maritime organization’s headquarters is in London, and the UK is uniquely positioned to lead this effort,” states Ashton.

Fish, oil, and gas

Fisheries and sustainable management of fish stocks in the Arctic is of direct interest to the UK, maintains the lords, and makes the following recommendations:

“In partnership with the Arctic states, the UK should continue to advocate for the protecting Arctic fish stocks and the establishment of protected marine areas, in partnership with the Arctic states,” they write and continue:

“We strongly encourage the government to join the agreement again to prevent unregulates fishery in the international part of the Arctic Ocean [previously party through EU, ed. note]. In the meantime, and as a signal of its commitment, the UK should issue a unilateral statement that it will comply with the agreement while pending accession.”

The lords also put an environmental perspective on the Norwegian petroleum industry in the North, of which the Brits and others are customers:

“In the short term, the UK’s and the EU’s demand for Norwegian oil and gas will likely grow and create pressure to increase production, including offshore in the Arctic. This will entail a greater environmental and safety risk.”

“We acknowledge that Norway has an extensive framework in place to respond to an oil spill emergency. Nevertheless, the UK government should continue to push for high environmental standards and the protection of the Arctic marine environment by contributing to scientific research and through continued participation in the Arctic Council Working Group on the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME).”

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