Cairn Energy in the Arctic Casino

Founders foesand chair of the Greenland Oil Industry Association, Edinburgh based Cairn Energy are by far the most active oil company in Greenland.

This report, written by Ric Lander for Friends of the Earth Scotland’s new Corporate Accountability campaign, details Cairn’s risky prospecting in the high Arctic. The briefing examines chemical spills, threats to marine wildlife, safety concerns, and the complex web of political and financial links which make Arctic drilling possible.

Cairn Energy: Arctic Cowboys – Executive Summary

  • Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy is by far the largest oil company operating in Greenland. They founded and chair the Greenland Oil Industry Association and have drilled eight out of the fourteen wells ever drilled offshore in Greenland.
  • Cairn admit that all of their operations in Greenland are in areas “sensitive in terms of biodiversity”. Numerous sensitive habitats and IUCN red-listed species inhabit the areas in which they operate including Blue Whale, Sei Whale, Narwhal, Walrus, White-tailed Eagle, Hooded Seal and Polar Bear.
  • Cairn refused to publish a spill response plan for their operations but in 2011, following a high-profile campaign by Greenpeace, the plan was published by the Greenlandic Government.
  • The plan has multiple shortcomings, most crucially that Cairn’s plan is not adequate to enable a full and speedy clean-up of the kind of spill which could happen in the area. It is likely that a spill would have catastrophic impacts on the Arctic environment.
  • Despite specific policy claims to reduce pollution rates, Cairn’s emissions of green-house gas emissions, NOx, VOCs have all increased over the last five years.
  • Cairn has received millions of pounds of funding from UK taxpayers via the bailed out UK banks RBS and Lloyds Group, and the World Bank division the ‘International Finance Corporation’.
  • David Cameron personally intervened to help Cairn raise money which was used to finance their Arctic drilling campaign.
  • Cairn have relationships with a number of charitable and educational institutions in Scotland including the Universities of Glasgow, Edinburgh and Heriot-Watt, and the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh.
  • After two years of failure, Cairn have not been actively drilling in the Arctic in 2012, and may pull out of the region all together if they are under enough pressure.
  • Investment managers are beginning to see that the risks of Arctic drilling are making them an increasingly poor investment.
  • Friends of the Earth Scotland are calling for a final end to Cairn’s operations in Greenland and a moratorium on the operations of Scottish oil companies in the Arctic.

The full report can be downloaded in full from Friends of the Earth Scotland:






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