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Greenpeace warns against rush to develop in newly available Arctic

New investment fund revealed in Juneau recently hopes to find profits after climate change

Posted: November 28, 2011 - 1:01am

A new Arctic investment fund that was brought to the world’s attention in Juneau recently is already coming in for criticism.

Guggenheim Partners, a Chicago-based investment advisory company with $125 billion under management is creating a multi-billion Arctic investment fund, the Juneau World Affairs Council’s recent climate change forum was told.

Guggenheim Partners later confirmed it was looking at such a fund, but has so far declined to provide specifics.

The news has been picked up by the investment world, however, and Greenpeace activists in Europe criticized the fund in The Guardian newspaper of London.

“We shouldn’t be surprised that the industry which got us into the worst global economic crisis in living memory now has the planet’s last great wilderness in its sights,” said Greenpeace Arctic campaigner Ben Ayliffe in The Guardian.

Climate change may make previously difficult to reach Arctic resources accessible, and attendees at the Juneau forum heard reports of remarkable opportunities in oil and gas development and mining, as well as possible dramatic decreases in shipping times made possible by new, ice-free routes.

Some of that has already triggered environmental opposition, however, with environmental groups and some local residents near the Chukchi Sea objecting to Shell Oil’s plans for offshore drilling.

Greenpeace activists have also been arrested when they climbed aboard an offshore drill rig in Greenland, warning that it would likely be impossible to adequately clean up arctic oil spills.

The news of the new investment effort was welcomed at the Juneau forum on climate change however, where conference attendees said it could help Alaska capitalize on development that is already going to places such as Russia, Norway and Greenland.

Greenpeace’s Ayliffe was quoted by the Guardian, which also mentioned the three-day JWAC conference at the University of Alaska-Southeast.

“It would seem exceedingly short-sighted to pour billions of dollars into the extraction of climate-changing fossil fuels just as scientists warn that the Arctic’s summer sea ice is entering what they call a ‘death spiral,’” Ayliffe said in the paper.

The paper said a Danish shipping company said an ice-free route between China and Europe would be a boon to resource extractors, and would cut shipping time by half and shipping costs by one-third.

That’s compared to the usual route, through the Suez Canal.

At the Juneau conference Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell said he expected Arctic shipping to grow dramatically, but there is much room for growth. Currently about 18 cargo vessels a year use what’s called the northern sea route” and pass through the Bering Strait between the United States and Russia, compared to 18,000 using the Suez Canal.

• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at patrick.forgey@juneauempire.com.

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