Reaction to Shell’s decision to cease further oil exploration in Alaska’s Arctic

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Wetlands International welcomes the decision of Royal Dutch Shell to stop Arctic oil and gas exploration in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska. The position of Wetlands International is that the risks of exploration and production of oil and gas in the Arctic region, especially offshore, are too high for nature, people and the climate and that these risks cannot be managed down towards levels that are acceptable to society.

The Arctic region is one of the world’s most fragile and pristine environments, supporting extensive marine and coastal wetlands. Arctic wetlands make up 60% of the land area of the Arctic and are critical for migratory species, maintaining the global climate and supporting local communities.  Oil and gas exploration and production activities in the Arctic pose significant risks to the environment, ecosystem services and livelihoods, both offshore and onshore and Wetlands International finds that guarantees that these risks can be managed down to levels that are acceptable to society are not in place.As long as internationally agreed standards for oil and gas operations and risks do not exist, and adequate management of these risks is not in place, we oppose exploration and production in the Arctic due to the unacceptable levels of risk. We have informed Shell, other oil companies and governments of these risks. We further support an immediate moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the most sensitive areas of the Arctic, including all categories of protected areas and areas of international importance.For additional information, please see our position statement on Arctic oil and gas development.

Climate Change and Arctic wetlands

Arctic wetlands store huge amounts of carbon and therefore help stabilise the global carbon balance In light of the upcoming UNFCCC COP 21 Climate Summit in Paris at the end of the year, there is a need to urgently reduce carbon emissions. The billions of dollars spent by oil companies around the globe pursuing fossil energy in the Arctic would be better spent investing in lower carbon energy alternatives.

The Arctic is already warming about twice the rate as the rest of the world. Additional fossil energy exploration in this region will lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions that further jeopardise the Arctic environment.