On December 21, US President, Barack Obama, and Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, launched a ban on oil and gas drilling in most of Arctic and Atlantic oceans. The ban aims to protect the area’s ecosystems, as well as those indigenous to the region. Obama used a particular 1953 law to make it difficult for the ban to be overturned in the future: marking an effort to ensure the environmental measures remain in force throughout the Trump administration.
The ban covers the “vast majority” of US waters in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, as well as all Arctic Canadian waters which have been designated as “indefinitely off-limits” for future oil and gas licensing.
The ban is intended to protect Alaska Natives and other indigenous communities from oil and gas extraction
A joint statement from the US and Canada said: “[The new measures will ensure] a strong, sustainable and viable Arctic economy and ecosystem, with low-impact shipping, science based management of marine resources, [which is] free from the future risks of offshore oil and gas activity.”
The ban is intended to protect Alaska Natives and other indigenous communities from oil and gas extraction – which has the potential to damage their culture and subsistence. The joint statement emphasised that both Canada and the US are committed to supporting the “well-being of Arctic residents, in particular respecting the rights and territory of indigenous peoples”.
The move will also protect the area’s ecosystems, which are vulnerable to the effects of oil and gas extraction – particularly given the potential for oil spills.
The announcement comes at a time shrouded with uncertainty after president-elect, Donald Trump, plugged campaign promises to eschew environmental legislation and tap into US resources. However, Obama’s move to enforce “indefinite” protections indicates that Trump may be powerless to follow through on such promises.