The WWF (World Wildlife Fund), the European Environmental Bureau and The Bellona Foundation issued the call for a moratorium last week as talks between the European Union energy commissioner and major oil companies and industry regulators got underway.

Dr Patrick Lewis, of the WWF Arctic Initiative, said: “The European Union has a growing interest in the Arctic.

“Hand in hand with this interest comes a responsibility to ensure that new industrial developments do not threaten the environment which defines the region, and upon which local communities depend.

“The adoption of a moratorium by the European Parliament would echo growing concerns across the Arctic that industry needs to prove Arctic oil development will not cause catastrophic damage.”

EU energy commission Gunther Oettinger has also called for a temporary ban on new oil drilling in the North Sea after the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in April, which killed 11 workers and caused the biggest spill in United State history.

The environmental groups issued their call in a letter to Diana Wallis, vice president of the European Parliament.

In it they said: “We are deeply concerned about the oil spill disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

“It clearly illustrates that the petroleum industry is not in a position to manage the huge risks involved in drilling and exploration of oil and gas, and moreover that the regulatory framework for such activities are at best insufficient.”

The US, Canada and Norway have all declared moratoria on deepwater drilling whilst the Gulf of Mexico incident is investigated.

The letter came days after it was announced British oil firm, Cairn Energy, has begun drilling exploration wells in the waters off Greenland.

Frederic Hauge, president of The Bellona Foundation, a Norway-based environmental organisation, said: “The BP oil spill clearly proves that the oil industry is incapable of handling major disasters in a safe manner.

“The mere fact that they are considering new activities in the Arctic, such an important region for renewable natural resources, is worrying.

“But even worse, oil companies are now moving their activities from the Gulf of Mexico to more northerly areas after the ban on deep sea drilling on the US shelf.”

David Gibbs

© Faversham House Ltd 2023 edie news articles may be copied or forwarded for individual use only. No other reproduction or distribution is permitted without prior written consent.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie