17 November 2011, 10:53

Russia’s environmental safeguards for the Arctic. Part II

Russia’s environmental safeguards for the Arctic. Part II

In 2010 the Gulf of Mexico oil spill prompted Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to put forward a raft of proposals covering insurance against a huge assortment of risks in case of a repeat of such a catastrophe in the future.

In 2010 the Gulf of Mexico oil spill prompted Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to put forward a raft of proposals covering insurance against a huge assortment of risks in case of a repeat of such a catastrophe in the future.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal last year, President Medvedev said that there was no global international legal mechanism for dealing with the aftermaths of huge disasters like the one in the Gulf of Mexico. According to the Russian president, it is impossible to deal with the topic at the moment, because there is no technical solution for it. Second, the question arises as to who is going to pay compensation for losses and will the body formally vested with the task have enough assets to do so? If there is not enough money, then who is going to be liable? Here is where the question of insurance against these kinds of risks becomes important.

Speaking at the G-20 summit in Toronto in June 2010, Medvedev called for the creation of a slew of international regulatory mechanisms and relevant financial instruments to support shelf oil and gas field development. Sadly, a working group which was to elaborate on the corresponding international legal mechanisms was never created.

During his annual address to the Russian Federal Assembly in November 2010, President Medvedev said that the ecology must be considered during assessments of the authorities’ activities and in a separate development at the time, a State Council session saw the discussion of the government’s dealing with environmental protection and that of marine bio-resources. The session approved a new state strategy on what was called the “ecologization” of the Russian economy.

BP poured about 11 billion dollars into trying to deal with the aftermath of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and paid 30 billion dollars more to victims of the spill and to compensate them for their losses. 

Since the BP oil spill Moscow announced that the Russian shelf will only be open to development by entities which are able to compensate for any possible damage done to the environment or for losses arising from such.

An array of government-endorsed amendments to federal law on the Continental Shelf of the Russian Federation aim to protect Russia from catastrophes like the one in the Gulf of Mexico. The amendments are also of great significance to the upcoming development of hydrocarbon fields in the Arctic.

Exploration and research companies have to meet a number of requirements which are stipulated by the amendments to the law on the continental shelf, with the Gulf of Mexico disaster turning out to be a powerful impetus for countries to reconsider their shelf development legislation.

Ecologically, the Arctic is a very vulnerable region, experts say, and are urging the minimization of projects and activities which cause environmental risks as soon as possible.  Experts say we must tread carefully when implementing full-scale development in the Arctic region, an issue likely to come to the fore in the immediate future.

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