I have taken up a position on the Environmental Audit Committee’s Polar Research Sub-Committee. As part of my duties on the Committee, I will be involved in the upcoming inquiry on the UK’s relationship to the Arctic Environment.

This is the press release announcing the launch of the Committee, published by the Environmental Audit Committee:

New Polar Research Sub-Committee explores UK’s relationship to Arctic environment

The Environmental Audit Committee’s newly-formed Polar Research Sub-Committee today announces it will look into the UK’s relationship with the Arctic and its environment.

The Sub-Committee’s first inquiry will explore three broad aspects of this relationship: the moral imperative to protect the delicate Arctic environment, the ramifications of the exploitation of the Arctic for its resources, and the UK’s leadership role in Arctic science.

The inquiry will look at the UK’s duty to minimise damage to the vulnerable region, underlining the need for the UK Government to ensure that the rights and livelihoods of around 4 million Arctic inhabitants are protected, plastic and other waste levels are reduced, and air and water quality and the wider environment preserved.

Profound changes are taking place in the Arctic and Antarctic as a result of climate change. The Arctic is warming almost twice as fast as the global average, and it is predicted that by 2060 the Arctic Ocean will be ice-free during the summer.

MPs will examine whether exploitation of the Arctic’s resources can be legitimate if done sustainably. Also under scrutiny will be the risk of leaving the region’s minerals, oil and gas, fisheries, tourism and maritime and commercial opportunities to less responsible exploiters, if UK interests stay away.

The UK’s leadership role in Arctic science will also be scrutinised. The UK ranks second in the world for volume of peer-reviewed Arctic research, and the UK’s leadership role in tackling the region’s climate change-related challenges through its contribution to scientific research is widely recognised.

This is supported by UK Government funding: UK Research & Innovation recently announced £670m in funding for research in both polar regions, including £290m for modernisations to the UK’s Antarctic and Arctic research facilities.

Another topic for the Sub-Committee’s inquiry will be Arctic geopolitics. Much Arctic research has been conducted from Russian territory due to its 15,000-mile Arctic coastline, often in collaboration with UK universities and the British Antarctic Survey.

Collaborative research with Russian institutions has been disrupted as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Sub-Committee will be keen to consider the ramifications for Arctic science, as well as for the operation of environmental protection and remediation protocols which had relied on Russian cooperation.

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