Monday, February 18, 2013

Strengthened governance and management required to prevent rush for resources from damaging fragile Arctic environment

UN Environment Programme News Centre: The rush for resources prompted by an apparent acceleration in sea ice melt calls for caution and effective governance  to avoid damage to the fragile Arctic environment, according to the UN Environment Programme's Year Book 2013.

The report, which each year outlines major emerging issues for the global environment, also highlights the need for better information and sound management to minimize the risks from chemicals and raises the issue of the recent spike in the illegal trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn.

A reduction in Arctic summer ice cover has become more intense in recent years, culminating in a record low of 3.4 million square kilometres in 2012 - 18 per cent below the previous recorded minimum in 2007 and 50 per cent below the average in the 1980s and 1990s. Land ice is also retreating and permafrost is melting. The retreating ice brings easier access to natural resources such as gas and oil, thus prompting increased human activity that may threaten the already fragile ecosystems and wildlife, the report says.

"Changing environmental conditions in the Arctic - often considered a bellwether for global climate change - have been an issue of concern for some time, but as of yet this awareness has not translated into urgent action," said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner.

"In fact, what we are seeing is that the melting of ice is prompting a rush for exactly the fossil fuel resources that fuelled the melt in the first place," he added. "As the UNEP Year Book 2013 points out, the rush to exploit these vast untapped reserves have consequences that must be carefully thought through by countries everywhere, given the global impacts and issues at stake."

As ice and snow recede, making access and transport easier, the Arctic is expected to play a greatly expanded role in world energy and minerals supplies....

Iceberg shot by Ville Miettinen, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr,  under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license

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