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United Kingdom - Oct 18

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Green groups condemn UK's claim in Antarctica

Owen Bowcott, Guardian
· Plan to exploit region seen as huge ecological risk
· Foreign Office defends 'safeguard of UK interests'

Environmental groups yesterday condemned British plans to claim sovereignty over a vast tract of the seabed off the coast of Antarctica, with Greenpeace and WWF expressing dismay that the Foreign Office was contemplating possible oil, gas and mineral exploration in the region.

The Guardian yesterday revealed that the Foreign Office was preparing to submit a rights claim to the UN commission on the limits of the continental shelf (CLCS) for 1m sq km (386,000 sq miles) of seabed off the coast of the British Antarctic Territory.

Any claim, it is alleged, could threaten the stability of the 1959 Antarctic Treaty, which froze territorial disputes on the world's least explored continent. Drilling for oil or gas would disrupt the fragile marine ecology of the Southern Ocean, environmentalists warn.

Simon Walmsley, head of WWF-UK's marine programme, insisted: "There should be no oil or gas exploitation in Antarctica. It's such a fragile habitat. Some of the sea creatures there are killed by a rise in temperature of merely 1.1C. It would be a body blow for the whole region.
(18 October 2007)


The tip of the iceberg

Michael Bravo, Guardian
Britain's new claim for sovereignty in Antarctica is all about energy, but we should now expect a sharp backlash and criticism from around the world.
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The news that the UK intends to file a claim for sovereignty over the seabed adjacent to its Antarctic territorial claim will significantly change the way we think about Antarctica. When the original 12 signatories signed the Antarctic treaty nearly 50 years ago, they agreed to put their territorial claims over the remote continent into abeyance. This was a major geopolitical milestone. The international agreement stated that the interests of individual nations should come second to preserving Antarctica as a common heritage for all countries. So, even at the height of the cold war, the idea of Antarctica as a demilitarised continent dedicated to science in a spirit of international cooperation was born.

But the high seas surrounding Antarctica, technically speaking, lie outside the bounded land of the Antarctic continent and are therefore subject to the UN convention on the law of the sea treaty (UNCLOS), which was signed in 1982. Whether the seabed will be considered as an extension of the land and therefore subject to the Antarctic treaty, which covers territory south of 60 degrees, or whether it will be treated as part of the high seas and governed by the law of the sea remains to be seen. Britain and Australia (which has signalled its intention to register a similar Antarctic claim) appear to believe that the law of the sea will take precedence in seabed disputes.

...Why is this happening now? The answer, in a word, is energy. The world's largest economies, including the UK, are seeking new supplies of energy away from the instability of the Middle East, without wanting to depend on the whim of Russia. The ocean seabed is a resource frontier with immense mineral wealth.

...The UK government's intention to lay claim to a section of the Antarctic shelf signals an expansionist phase in its South Atlantic foreign policy. The British sector of Antarctica belongs to the same geographical imagination as its other Atlantic colonial outposts at Ascension and the Falklands. The UK claim in effect imposes a southward extension of its economic self-interest. Whereas UK interests have until now been aligned with discourses of scientific cooperation and conservation, staking a claim to the Antarctic sea bed sends out a clear signal that the currency of Antarctic internationalism is being devalued, or at least limited to the land.

The UK's decision is a calculated response to the recent Russian declaration of sovereignty over the North Pole basin. Russia sent out a submarine to plant a flag at the North Pole on the ocean floor in the vicinity of the Lomonosov Ridge that connects the Arctic shelves of Russia and Canada. National approaches differ. Many thought the Russian flag-planting unnecessarily theatrical, echoing an overtly imperialist Soviet tradition.

...Expect a sharp backlash and a storm of criticism as this story travels quickly around the world. Critics will draw parallels in Britain's geopolitical stance between the race for the Antarctic seabed and the heroic race for the South Pole, resonant with images of British imperialism. Argentina and Chile will interpret it as a repudiation of the Antarctic treaty itself, because the British claim to the seabed shelf only makes sense in relation to the force of our claim to territory on the adjacent Antarctic landmass. For that reason, British foreign policy will be seen to be riding roughshod over the interests of other Antarctic stakeholders.

Conservation organisations will see this as nothing short of a disaster. They will say it undermines the trust necessary to advance environmental governance - and they will have a strong case if they argue that the British action damages the very fabric of the Antarctic treaty, reversing the principle of putting science and the common good before national interests.

Michael Bravo is head of the History and Public Policy Research Group at the Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge.
(17 October 2007)


BP Executive pied as Europe's largest BioFuels Event disrupted

Food Not Fuel, Indymedia - UK
This morning a group of 15 climate change activists from protest group Food Not Fuel entered the BioFuel Expo & Conference taking place at the Newark Showground and took over the keynote speech. Oliver Mace, CEO of BP Fuels, the lead sponsors of the event recieved a cream pie in the face. Another campaigner was D-locked to the podium and various alarms were placed around the place. The hall was emptied and talks were canceled. There were no arrests.
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This morning a group of 15 climate change activists from protest group Food Not Fuel entered the BioFuel Expo & Conference taking place at the Newark Showground and took over the keynote speech. Oliver Mace, CEO of BP Fuels, the lead sponsors of the event recieved a cream pie in the face. Another campaigner was D-locked to the podium and various alarms were placed around the place. The hall was emptied and talks were canceled. There were no arrests.

They were protesting against planned expansion of biofuels citing its contribution to deforestation and the fact that it will continue to contribute to climate change. The activists complained that biofuels on a large scale is greenwash and companies such as BP are ignoring its negative impacts on the environment.

Protester Michelle Lynch said, "What they are promoting is a replacement to fossil fuels, but the reality is that they are little better. Large scale plantations are not the solution; reducing our consumption is the only realistic way forward."

Another protester, Thomas Bradshaw pointed out, "Biofuels will be taking food from the mouths of the hungary when there are already 800 million people suffering from malnutrition. These corporations are effectively encouraging the erosion of valuable ariable farmland and rainforests vital for combating climate change."

Notes for editors:

1. The protestors ... argue that "Food Not Fuel" , and that seeking solutions such as carbon trading and biofuels are not the answer, as the real problem is unsustainable economic growth.

2. The BioFuels Expo & Conference (www.biodiesel-expo.co.uk) is the largest of its kind in Europe, and brings together big industry players such as BP Fuels, Deloitte & Touche and many chemcial, agricultural and manufacturing companies.

3. A comprehensive critique of biofuels can be found at BioFuels Watch (www.biofuelwatch.org.uk) who are a distinct group from Food Not Fuels, but are hosting their own demonstration against the Conference.
(17 October 2007)
This is a press release from the protesting group, Food Not Fuel. I haven't seen an independent report on the event, so take it with a grain of salt.

I feel ambivalent about protests of this sort in which people are prevented from talking and conferences disrupted. Solving energy problems will require MORE discussion, not less. It's critical to support the values of free speech and assembly -- even for people with whom one doesn't agree. One Machiavellian reason to support free speech is that otherwise unpopular viewpoints (like advocating an end to growth) would otherwise be suppressed. -BA

UPDATE: Found this story from Nottingham.

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