Britain's support for Arctic oil and gas incompatible with climate goals - MPs

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s support for oil and gas exploration in the Arctic is incompatible with its international climate change commitments, a report from a cross-party group of lawmakers said on Thursday.

The international Paris Agreement set a goal of ending the fossil fuel era in the second half of this century in an effort to curb rising temperatures which, if left unchecked are forecast to lead to life-threatening heat and rising sea levels.

Britain should cease encouraging British business to explore oil and gas opportunities in the Arctic and call on other nations to adopt a similar approach, the report by the Environment Audit Committee said.

“The Government should start by acknowledging the incompatibility of its support for oil and gas exploitation with its climate change commitments,” Mary Creagh, chair of the Environment Audit Committee said in a statement published with the group’s report.

The report said Arctic multi-year sea ice is at its lowest level since records began and the Arctic Ocean could be ice free in the summer as soon as 2050.

The report called on the government to provide greater funding for Arctic research and set targets to protect Arctic biodiversity as well as setting a timeline to reduce the country’s plastic pollution.

It also said the government should press the International Maritime Organisation to ban polluting heavy fuel oils as soon as possible and to designate the Arctic as a special sensitive area.

Many oil and gas companies such as Equinor and ENI operate in the Arctic, while U.S. president Donald Trump has pushed for further oil and gas licenses to be made available in the region.

Britain’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), which represents Britain at the Arctic Council, said in April that despite moves to decarbonise the world is likely to rely on oil and gas for decades to come.

“Supplying this demand will require exploration of new potential resources, with the Arctic, with its significant hydrocarbon reserves, potentially playing a major role,” the FCO report said.

Reporting by Susanna Twidale; editing by Louise Heavens