Industries searching for offshore oil should not drill in sensitive waters before fully ensuring all safety measures are in place, says IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature).
According to the world’s largest environmental network, protection of the environment should be a top priority for both industry and national regulators and environmental scientists should be part of any plans for offshore oil drilling.
“We need a plan B before going into these sensitive areas,” says Carl Gustaf Lundin, Director of IUCN’s Global Marine and Polar Programme. “What happened a year ago in the Gulf of Mexico should never happen again and it is on the industry to prove ahead of time that they could do their job, without risking the health of the planet.”
A conference on how to manage oil spill risks, co-sponsored by IUCN, was held in Sweden last month. Oil industry specialists, including the president of BP, government officials and researchers, all recognised the increased risk of oil spills in difficult environments. In the Arctic, for example, the remoteness, the extreme weather, the lack of infrastructure and the environmental stress due to climate change, pose serious challenges for the offshore industry.
“One year after the largest oil spill disaster in the United States, there’s still no clear indication from BP what new technologies and improvements in procedures are needed to avoid losing more lives and destroying the environment,” adds Lundin. “Deep sea drilling should go hand-in-hand with sound scientific research, in order to make sure that economic opportunities do not impact the environment in a negative way.”
The increased interest of the oil and gas industry to look for opportunities in the remote waters of the Arctic Ocean is bringing the scientific community together to protect the richest and most vulnerable places in the Arctic. According to IUCN, internationally agreed “no-go” areas should be created there to avoid the greatest risks to nature.
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