From: Reuters
Published November 20, 2008 08:05 AM

Global warming could lead to more Arctic energy

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The Arctic offers new energy and fishing resources as a result of global warming and new technology, the European Union said on Thursday.

Melting ice also presented new navigation possibilities such as a short route to the Pacific Ocean, the EU executive said.

The rapid recession of sea ice, snow cover and permafrost were helping to accelerate global warming and the loss from the Greenland ice sheet would bring a swift rise in sea levels, it said in a paper.

States should develop a coordinated approach to the Arctic to ensure the EU was well placed to take advantage and to help minimize the damage from increased human activity, it said.

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The EU should work particularly with Russia and Norway to facilitate environmentally friendly energy exploitation.

"The Arctic contains large untapped hydrocarbon reserves," it said. "Arctic resources could contribute to enhancing the EU's security of supply concerning energy and raw materials in general."

The EU must keep its edge in sustainable energy exploitation and encourage research and innovation to facilitate oil and gas exploration in harsher climates and deeper waters, while insisting on full respect for environmental standards, it said.

Melting of sea ice would open new navigation routes and could considerably shorten sea trips from Europe to the Pacific as well opening new fishing areas, the paper said. Explorers had for centuries searched for such a route.

On fisheries, it called for establishment of a regulatory framework for Arctic high seas not yet covered by international conservation regimes before new fishing opportunities arose.

"Until a conservation and management regime is in place for the areas not yet covered by such a regime, no new fisheries should commence," it said.

Three EU states -- Denmark through Greenland, Finland and Sweden -- have Arctic territories, while non-EU states Iceland and Norway are part of the European Economic Area.

A report released in September by the European Environment Agency, the World Health Organization and the European Commission found the minimum surface area of Arctic sea ice was only half the normal minimum measured in the 1950s.

It said the sea level rise could place 4 million Europeans at risk of flooding by 2100 along with 2 trillion euros ($2.9 trillion) of assets, from London to Athens.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by Angus MacSwan)

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