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Norway, Denmark and Iceland prevent protection of unique Arctic Area

Comunicado de prensa - junio 24, 2016
Norway, Denmark and Iceland prevent protection of unique Arctic Area despite strong call from several progressive countries, backed by 8 million people wanting to establish a marine protected area.

Friday 24th OSPAR has failed the Arctic. Despite 8 million people calling for the protection of the fragile waters of the Arctic through the creation of a huge marine protected area, the OSPAR Commission failed to act. This was all because of the actions of Norway, Denmark and Iceland. These countries refused to engage in the negotiations and as a result the future of the icy waters of the far north is now less secure.

After one week of negotiations, the OSPAR Commission has been unable to get an agreement on what would create the first ever marine protected area in the high seas of the Arctic. Despite the efforts of the OSPAR Chairman and a majority of delegations (including Germany, the European Commission, France, Spain and the Netherlands), three Arctic countries, Norway, Denmark and Iceland, blocked all attempts to agree a deal that would have helped keep one of the world’s most delicate and fragile areas legally protected and off-limits to destructive industries.

“The scientific evidence for the high ecological values of this magnificent area is compelling. This has been identified again and again by leading scientists and international bodies - including OSPAR. Greenpeace has brought to this meeting the signatures of 8 million people supporting the protection of the Arctic International waters. There is a clear mandate in OSPAR, accepted and supported by the majority of the countries, to protect this part of the Arctic. And yet the Arctic coastal states, who have a special moral obligation to protect the area, are instead doing all they can to leave it open for exploitation and destruction”, said Sara del Rio from Greenpeace’s political team present at OSPAR negotiations.

The Arctic Ocean remains the least protected ocean in the world and is already facing the consequences of climate change as the ice melts at an unprecedented rate. Nevertheless, the OSPAR Commission has been unable to take action and, instead of a much needed designation of a marine protected area in the Arctic high seas, in accordance with its own mandate, OSPAR have decided to postpone any action and simply wait for the Arctic Council to act.  With this manoeuvre, OSPAR has handed its responsibility for protection to the Arctic Council, which in its more than twenty years of history has never proposed or established a marine protected area and lacks both the mandate and will to do so. This was even confirmed during the OSPAR negotiations by the US chair of the Senior Arctic Officials of the Arctic Council.

“The continued delaying process from Denmark, Norway and Iceland is highly problematic and it brings us further and further away from the much needed protection of this unique area. There is simply no valid reasons for the Arctic to wait any longer”, adds Del Río.

The OSPAR meeting was framed by the stunning performance of Ludovico Einaudi in the Arctic. A touching message urging for  protection of the area. On Tuesday, Greenpeace delivered in Tenerife, where the OSPAR Commission met this week, more than eight million people's voices which have joined Greenpeace’s call for protection of the Arctic. Their voices have sadly been ignored today. Despite the outcome of these negotiations, Greenpeace will continue its global campaign to Save the Arctic.

Norway is also facing criticism for opening up new areas of the Arctic Ocean for oil exploration, and Greenpeace is part of a coalition taking legal advice on whether the new drilling licences are in breach of the country's environmental obligations [i]. Greenpeace is calling on the Arctic States and the international community to protect the Arctic from destructive industries, including the creation of a Sanctuary in the international waters around the North Pole.