© Shutterstock Oil platform in the Arctic Ocean, extraction of fuel resources

Arctic Oil and Gas Development

As climate change opens new areas of Arctic waters, interest is growing in the oil and gas resources below them.

Oil and Gas Development in the Canadian Arctic

Currently, no offshore oil and gas development can take place in the Canadian Arctic, but this may soon change. In 2016, the Government of Canada, along with the United States, imposed a five-year moratorium on issuing new oil and gas licenses in the Arctic Ocean. The federal government is conducting a broad science-based review of the moratorium on Canadian Arctic drilling, which could be lifted as early as 2021.

© Peter Ewins / WWF-Canada Oil spill response equipment, Arctic Bay, Nunavut, Canada

An Unacceptable Risk

Canada is not ready for oil and gas drilling in our Arctic oceans. The impact of a major oil spill or a well blowout on species and local communities would be catastrophic in the Arctic. Current capacity to respond to a major oil spill in the Canadian Arctic is extremely poor and in many cases, virtually non-existent. Knowledge of how to best respond to oil spills in extreme Arctic conditions is also inadequate and there is no proven method for removing oil from ice.

A blowout is the uncontrolled release of crude oil and/or natural gas from an oil well after pressure control systems have failed. Blowouts can occur above or below water and result in oil gushing into the surrounding waters.

What WWF-Canada is Doing

WWF-Canada is working to ensure that the rules governing offshore oil and gas development are consistent with international best practices for safety, accountability and environmental protection in order to safeguard the sensitive Arctic environment and the livelihoods of local communities.

WWF-Canada has carried out extensive oil spill trajectory modelling in the western and eastern Canadian Arctic, research that can help inform local risk perception, prepare for oil spill response planning, and inform integrated ocean management and planning.

WWF-Canada’s advocacy efforts resulted in the National Energy Board (NEB) requiring all potential offshore oil and gas developments to demonstrate the ability to control a blowout before the winter freeze-up. WWF-Canada continues to advocate that any future offshore oil and gas activity in the Canadian Arctic, should it occur, must avoid areas of heightened ecological significance, be safe for the sensitive Arctic environment, directly benefit local communities, and be consistent with national climate targets.

© Josh Ostroff ice berg in Nunavut

What You Can Do

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© Shutterstock Arctic landscape

Learn More About Our Work in the Arctic

WWF-Canada is planning for an Arctic future that conserves wildlife, establishes direct partnerships with local communities and promotes the responsible development of resources.

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