THE Green Party conference ended on a happy note yesterday when delegates received the news that oil giant Shell will stop drilling in the Arctic.
But party leader Natalie Bennett warned that the decision was merely a “reaction to low oil prices” and not a resounding victory for environmental campaigners.
In her closing address, Ms Bennett welcomed the suspension of oil and gas exploration just off Alaska’s coast but urged world leaders to make a commitment to keep such reserves “in the ground.”
She added: “Campaigners against dirty energy will breathe a sigh of relief today.
“The decision was clearly a reaction to low oil prices and reflected the growing importance of renewable energy sources.
“Shell and other oil and gas companies do not have a good track record when it comes to environmental safety.
“As we head to the Paris climate change talks later this year, global leaders must make a commitment to ensuring that fossil fuel reserves are kept in the ground, as the science dictates. We cannot allow Shell and others to return to the Arctic.”
Drilling in the Arctic was halted after Royal Dutch Shell was confronted with a “disappointing exploration outcome” in the Chukchi basin.
The poor results were a blow to Shell, which had been counting on its work in the area to provide future revenue after investing over $7 billion (£4.6bn) in the project.
Shell’s final drill took place yesterday before regulators ordered the company to end its operations there because sea ice is expected to re-form in the lease area within four weeks.
The company revealed that it would stop all activity in Alaska “for the foreseeable future” despite having originally planned to drill up to six more wells in the next year.
Shell’s site was the target of several protests and sustained criticism over the years because the Arctic has a diverse but already threatened ecosystem.
Greenpeace UK executive director John Sauven said: “Big oil has sustained an unmitigated defeat.
“The Save the Arctic movement has exacted a huge reputational price from Shell for its Arctic drilling programme.
“If a movement of seven million people can beat one of world’s biggest energy companies, think what we can do when we come together in our tens and hundreds of millions.
“This is a moment to appreciate that, when we assert our power, we can win extraordinary victories in the fight against climate change.”