Leadership of the Arctic Council passes to the U.S.; U.S. approves Arctic drilling

At the end of April, 2015  chairmanship of the Arctic Council passed from Canada to the U.S., as reported in the Globe and Mail . The U.S. stated their priorities for the chairmanship as addressing the impacts of climate change; supporting Arctic Ocean safety, security and stewardship; and improving economic and living conditions in Arctic communities.  Yet barely two weeks later, the U.S. Department of the Interior granted conditional approval to Shell to begin drilling for oil in the Chukchi Sea this summer. See “ U. S. will allow Drilling for Oil in Arctic Ocean”  in the New York Times (May 11) .  Reaction has been strong: read Bill McKibben’s OpEd in the New York Times , “Obama’s Catastrophic Climate-Change Denial” (May 12)   , or “ Letting Shell drill in Arctic could lead to catastrophic oil spill, experts warn” in The Guardian (May 12) .

Also in mid-May, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted provisions under the Polar Code which will govern the safety and environmental impact of ships around the Earth’s poles, starting in 2017. The agreed provisions prohibit the discharge of sewage, noxious liquid substances, and oil or oily mixtures; require that fuel tanks be separated from the outer shell; and restrict garbage discharge. Disappointingly, the delegates put off adoption of a GhG reduction target for the shipping industry till a future date.

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