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Executive Summary for May 6th

In this weekly roundup, we review and analyze the latest news and key developments in the Arctic, including a push to end oil and gas development offshore of Alaska and Canada’s plan to claim the North Pole as its own.

Published on May 6, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

U.S. Lawmakers Want Arctic Offshore Leases Banned

A group of lawmakers is urging the Obama Administration to remove Arctic regions from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s oil and gas leasing program, reports Law360.

In a letter addressed to U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, the 66 representatives argued that if the U.S. wants to help the world keep the global temperature rise below 2C (3.6F), it must not drill for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean.

“Ending oil and gas development in the Arctic would send a powerful international signal that the United States is committed to investing its resources in a climate safe, clean-energy future,” they wrote.

The Administration withdrew lease areas located in the mid- and southern Atlantic when it released its proposal for the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program in March. But that proposal included one possible lease sale in each of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, and in Cook Inlet, the Guardian reported on March 15.

Admiral Robert Papp Jr. (Retired) told a forum at the Brookings Institution in late April that he was “discouraged” that Royal Dutch Shell had put an end to its drilling activities in the Arctic, according to an article in Eos. Papp warned that the upcoming U.S. election, new administration and lack of Arctic Ocean oil and gas activity could take attention off the Arctic.

Meanwhile, the major oil and gas firms released lackluster first-quarter results, damaged by buckling oil prices that dropped below $30 per barrel in February, reports the Economist. Shell plans to cut 2,800 jobs due to low oil prices, in addition to 7,500 previously announced, according to Fortune.

Canada Lines Up Continental Shelf Claim for 2018

When Canada submits its Arctic continental shelf claim to the United Nations in 2018, it will include the North Pole in its submission, reports Radio Canada International.

Canadian scientists believe they have evidence that the seabed beneath the top of the earth is an extension of the Canadian continental landmass.

Under the terms of the U.N. Convention of the Law of the Sea, coastal countries can extend their claims to the submarine region if the undersea geology is linked to the landmass.

But Canada’s claim to the Arctic continental shelf will overlap with Denmark’s and Russia’s submissions, which also include the North Pole.

Russia initially presented its documentation in 2002, but its submission was returned by the U.N. for lack of evidence. It sent in revised documents in August 2015, and Russia’s Natural Resources and Environment Minister Sergei Donskoi presented its proposal at the U.N. in New York City earlier this year.

U.S. Abandons Effort to Ban Trade in Polar Bear Skins

After years of efforts to group polar bear pelts and teeth with elephant ivory, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has stopped pushing for an international ban on the trade of polar bear parts, reports the Canadian Press.

The U.S., supported by environmental and animal rights groups, had argued that the Canadian polar bear hunt and trade was unsustainable in light of other threats to the bear populations, namely the loss of their sea-ice habitat due to climate change.

Inuit groups argue that the hunt brings money into communities, according to Radio Canada International (RCI). Wealthy American, European and Asian hunters will pay as much as $50,000 to hunt the bears, the article said.

The Inuit say the hunt is sustainable, a stance supported by the Canadian government, some environmental groups, scientific groups and NGOs. According to Environment Canada, about 300 bears wind up for sale on the international market annually, about 2 percent of the total Canadian population of 16,000 bears.

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