The fact that the Arctic region continues to thin at an accelerated pace should serve as a wake up call to businesses, especially in the oil sector. Instead, some businesses are counterintuitively preparing to start economic development projects in the Arctic region, including oil extraction.
A World Economic Forum advisory group recently launched the Arctic Investment Protocol, a set of suggested guidelines for business in a region where shrinking ice coverage now allows access to sea routes and fossil fuel reservoirs that were previously unreachable. Guggenheim Partners, a global investment firm which holds over $240 billion in assets, was one of the first to endorse the protocol.
“The Arctic Investment Protocol is an important step forward and a solid foundation upon which to build for the future,” said Scott Minerd, global chief investment officer of Guggenheim Partners, in a statement.
Many environmentalists oppose the protocol, viewing it as a step towards further degradation of the already delicate Arctic ecosystem. Studies have found that Arctic ice is thinning at an accelerated pace—annual mean ice thickness has decreased by 65 percent since 1975. Additionally, the Arctic is warming twice as fast than the rest of the world.
The new protocol came in the same week that actor Leonardo DiCaprio denounced fossil fuels at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
“Our planet cannot be saved unless we leave fossil fuels in the ground where they belong. Twenty years ago, we described this problem as an addiction. Today, we possess the means to end this reliance,” said DiCaprio.
While development in the Arctic region could further the very problems that caused the reduction of ice to begin with, many of the region’s residents are behind it. New development could bring much needed economic prosperity and infrastructure to the region.
In an email to news outlet ThinkProgress, Inuuteq Holm Olsen, a Greenland diplomat, said: “For us, it is not a choice between development or the environment. The right to development is a universally recognized principle and that applies to the Arctic as well.”