[Act] Stopping Shell using Russia as a backdoor into the Arctic

Shell wants to risk a devastating Arctic oil spill for only three years’ worth of oil.

Shell wants to risk a devastating Arctic oil spill for only three years’ worth of oil.

© Markus Mauthe / Greenpeace

Stopping Shell using Russia as a backdoor into the Arctic

The millions of supporters worldwide who signed up to our Save the Arctic campaign helped us force Shell into shelving plans to drill for oil in Alaska for two consecutive years. So we know our strategy is working. But we can’t let down our guard because Shell is back!
In April they signed a deal with Russia’s state-owned energy company Gazprom and the Russian president to drill in the Russian Arctic instead.

Russia – the world’s oil spill capital

Russia’s oil industry has a horrifying safety record; More than 20,000 oil spills – that’s 54 every day or half the world's annual total, take place in Russia. For example, this May, a toxic oil spill in Northern Russia spread over 170 km of waterways. The local media did not report it and the oil company responsible made no effort to clean it up. Local residents are trying to scoop up the oil by hand. When Greenpeace found out we documented the accident and reported it to the world.

And now Shell is planning to drill for oil there, a region where regulations are extremely lax, and corruption is rife, well out of sight of public scrutiny. What’s also worth noting is that other oil companies are now watching Shell closely. If they successfully strike oil in the Arctic, it will spark an immediate battle for oil in the region. There will be a flood of oil companies and oil rigs entering the Arctic, and the danger of an oil spill will be acute.

Polluting Paradise: oil spill in Thailand

This July, a pipeline at an offshore platform in Rayong, Thailand operated by a stated-owned energy company spilled an estimated 50,000 liters of oil into the Gulf of Thailand. Currents carried the oil slick onto the beautiful beaches of tourist paradise, Koh Samet. Greenpeace campaigned to get the oil company to clean up the spill and compensate those people affected.

This terrible spill is yet further proof that oil companies can't work safely even under the calmest of conditions, much less in the extreme, isolated Arctic. Cleaning up an oil spill above the Arctic Circle would be next to impossible. The best oil spill response plan is no drilling at all! So it is imperative that we stop Shell from using Russia as a backdoor or by any other means into the Arctic.

Beautiful and Pure, we cannot lose the Arctic

What are the threats facing the Arctic today? Here we lay out the logic behind stopping oil companies from drilling at the North Pole and why it is imperative that we save the Arctic.

The connection between climate change and the Arctic

The Arctic is often called the world’s “air conditioner”, it helps to regulate the global climate because sea ice reflects such a large amount of sunlight. However, over the past 30 years, we have lost ¾ of the floating ice coverage. Last summer, sea ice reached record lows, sounding an alarm bell for the advancement of climate change. Sea ice levels are expected to hit new lows this year. Humanity’s over-reliance on fossil fuels is driving this rapid melt. If we continue to turn a blind eye, it is tantamount to just allowing climate change to take over our planet.

The Arctic ecosystem is in jeopardy

The Arctic is an extremely rich ecosystem; it is home to hundreds of species of seabirds and migratory birds, 17 kinds of whales, polar bears, the Arctic fox, seals and walruses. The melting of the Arctic ice is threatening their survival. There are several species that are already on the brink of extinction.

Take the polar bear for example; scientists are predicting that within 30 years their numbers will be drastically cut by two thirds. At that time, the female’s average weight will have dipped below 190 kg, the point at which there is a danger that she will not be able to reproduce, thus pushing the polar bear towards certain extinction.

Dangers from all sides – Arctic drilling

Drilling for oil in the Arctic is an extremely risky procedure. An official U.S. body estimated that there was a one-in-five change of a major spill occurring in just one block of leases in the Arctic Ocean near Alaska. Dealing with oil spills in the polar environment pose significant technical problems and to date no oil company has proved it has the capacity to deal with a disaster in the Arctic.

There is no need to drill for oil in the Arctic

Arctic ice is melting at an alarming rate, even so there are 40-odd global oil companies that are waiting in the wings to exploit for oil in the region, ignoring the devastating economic consequences, just to drill from one the world’s last remaining oil resources. However, but at the current rate of oil consumption, proven oil reserves in the Arctic would only last us three years. Why don’t we put all this investment into developing renewable energy and raising energy efficiency instead?

We must save the Arctic

We now have more 3.8 million people that have joined our Save the Arctic campaign. Together we have the strength to face the world’s most powerful governments and oil companies. In 1991, after a seven-year campaign, Greenpeace successfully persuaded 39 countries to sign the Antarctic Treaty, placing the South Pole inside a protected reserve.

Today we can use the same momentum to get the United Nations to give the Arctic similar protections. But it wouldn’t be possible without your help. Please sign up to SaveTheArctic.org and invite your friends and family to join our crucial campaign.