Global halt to oil drilling in eco areas urged

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A leading international environmental alliance on Friday called for a global suspension to oil and gas extraction in ecologically sensitive areas, following the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said the moratorium should include deepwater ocean sites the industry is increasingly exploring to cope with growing energy demand, despite higher financial and environmental risks.

"The technology to minimise the risks and impacts of catastrophes such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is obviously lacking at present," said IUCN Director General Julia Marton-Lefevre.

"Because our understanding of the impacts of this catastrophe is inadequate we must stop oil and gas exploitation -- not just in deepwater ocean sites but all ecologically sensitive areas, including polar areas," she added.

In a statement, the IUCN called "for a global moratorium on oil and gas exploitation in ecologically sensitive areas."

It argued that more difficult environments were being exploited, increasing the risk of costly accidents "with a price that is too high both for human livelihoods and the natural systems which support them."

The IUCN believes the impact of the oil spill currently swathing the southern US coast is more severe than the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska and would spread to Caribbean states, like Mexico, Cuba and the Bahamas, over the coming months.

The union groups some 1,000 government and non-governmental nature protection agencies or campaign groups in about 160 countries. It specialises in bringing them together with the United Nations and the corporate sector to develop conservation policy and best practices.

The IUCN called on the energy industry to support tightened government regulations and join a search for new economic models and viable technology in the sector.

"All energy solutions, even fully renewable energy sources, have environmental consequences, so comprehensive energy strategies need to be urgently developed that take full account of biodiversity and livelihood impacts," said IUCN president Ashok Khosla.

© 2010 AFP

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