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Nobel Peace Prize winners call for halt to Arctic drilling

  • Author: Atle Staalesen
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published March 18, 2016

In a letter, six female Nobel laureates urged Arctic countries to put a stop to drilling in the region.

"We urge you to seize this moment, to set a high standard for multilateral climate leadership, to protect the Arctic Ocean from the dangers of fossil fuel extraction, and to lead as the world builds the safe, clean, and renewable energy future we need," the letter reads.

The address is sent as leaders of Arctic nations assemble in an Arctic Council's senior officials meeting in Fairbanks, Alaska. It is the Nobel Women's Initiative which is behind the letter.

"The Arctic Council has the opportunity to serve as a model of the international cooperation that will be needed as we collectively phase out fossil fuels and transition the world to cleaner, more sustainable sources of energy," the Nobel Laureates write.

The letter is signed by laureates Mairead Maguire (Ireland), Rigoberta Menchu Tum (Guatemala), Jody Williams (USA), Shirin Ebadi (Iran), Leymah Gbowee (Liberia) and Tawakkoi Karmal (Yemen).

With the address, the peace prize winners kick the leg of Norway, the country responsible for the prize. Despite its mounting climate commitments, Norway continues to explore Arctic waters and the country's government has no plans to reduce its drilling program.

Norway's upcoming 23rd Licensing Round include blocks located further east and further north than ever before on the Norwegian shelf. And the recently announced Awards in Predefined Areas (APA) offers 24 new Arctic blocks to companies. In mid-March, the country's first offshore oil platform, the Goliat, started production.

The U.S., which announced it will not allow drilling in the Atlantic, will also proceed with a program of Arctic lease sales, the Interior Department said this week, though it also said it would consider taking further areas out of consideration, and even not holding a sale.

At the same time, other Arctic countries appear to be putting on the breaks. In the U.S., the Department of Interior in October 2015 canceling two planned auctions of Arctic offshore oil leases in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, and turned down requests from oil companies for more time on existing leases.

In a meeting last week, President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a joint plan to cut methane emissions from the oil and gas industry and a suite of plans to protect the environment in the Arctic.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch News as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.