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Greenpeace launches campaign to create Arctic sanctuary

Celebrities lead calls for governments to create officially protected polar region, blocking businesses planning to exploit the region

By BusinessGreen staff

Greenpeace will launch a major celebrity-backed campaign calling for the creation of a legal sanctuary around the North Pole, in a move that could have major implications for oil and gas businesses planning to drill in the area.
The campaign group has enlisted the support of 100 figures from the worlds of music, film, TV, and business to launch the Save the Arctic campaign.

Sir Paul McCartney, Penelope Cruz, Robert Redford and Sir Richard Branson are among the first to sign an Artic Scroll, which will see a million names added before Greenpeace stages an expedition to place the document on the sea bed four kilometres beneath the North Pole.

The campaign will call for the creation of an internationally recognised legal sanctuary that will ban oil and gas drilling and unsustainable fishing from the Arctic region.

The campaign comes at a highly significant time given a host of oil companies are drawing up plans to start deepwater drilling operations in the region, while governments are jostling for position to claim jurisdiction over the Arctic. Most notably, Russia staged an event in 2007 that saw explorer Artur Chilingarov plant a Russian flag on the seabed beneath the pole “claiming” the site for Moscow.

Environmental campaigners are concerned that as sea ice in the region continues to recede businesses and governments will seek to exploit the area’s mineral and fishery resources while also opening up new routes for shipping lanes.
“The Arctic is coming under assault and needs people from around the world to stand up and demand action to protect it,” said Greenpeace International executive director Kumi Naidoo.

“A ban on offshore oil drilling and unsustainable fishing would be a huge victory against the forces ranged against this precious region and the four million people who live there. And a sanctuary in the uninhabited area around the pole would in a stroke stop the polluters colonising the top of the world without infringing on the rights of indigenous communities.

“We’re drawing a line in the ice and saying to polluters ‘you come no further’.”

The move comes just days after Naidoo threatened to put the campaign group on a “war-footing” over the failure of politicians in Rio to agree a more ambitious package of commitments as part of any deal.

Green NGOs at the summit are furious at the failure of negotiators to deliver firmer commitments to tackle biodiversity loss, curb greenhouse gas emissions, phase out fossil fuel subsidies, and introduce new green growth policies.

Observers are predicting world leaders will simply rubber stamp the proposed text tomorrow and as such campaigners are predicting that green groups could stage some form of civil disobedience in protest at the document’s perceived lack of ambition.

21 Jun 2012

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