World Wildlife Fund (WWF) today issued the following statement from Bill Eichbaum, vice president of marine and Arctic policy for WWF-US, in response to the conclusion of today’s Arctic Council ministerial meeting attended by Secretary of State John Kerry:
“Like a frenzied bank run, there’s a mad rush to extract the Arctic’s natural resources. Today’s agreements tell us that the Council sees the crowds coming, but isn’t yet worried enough to take urgent action. By putting critical issues like oil spill prevention and reducing the impact of climate change on the back burner for two years, the Council risks the region being poorly prepared for this mad dash.
“However, forward-looking agreements like these are critical to prepare for potential disasters in the Arctic, like drilling mishaps that occur in the region’s extreme environment. When something goes wrong in the dangerous Arctic waters, a rapid, coordinated response provides the only chance for saving wildlife at sea and local communities on shore.
“This meeting is a key moment among ongoing efforts to mitigate against disasters in the Arctic – but we need to go beyond that. What we need now is an overarching action plan on how to protect the Arctic ecosystem itself, because the drive to extract its natural resources is only going to increase.
“As our nation’s top diplomat, Secretary Kerry should lead the effort to address Arctic issues at the global scale. The U.S. must also continue to develop a more comprehensive national Arctic strategy that takes into account the impacts of climate change on wildlife and Alaskan communities, and seeks to reduce our nation’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions.”