February 27, 2015 / 12:22 AM / 3 years ago

UK must appoint Arctic ambassador or risk being 'outmaneuvered': lawmakers

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain should appoint an ambassador on the Arctic or risk being “outmaneuvered” in the region by other countries, a committee of lawmakers from Britain’s upper house said on Friday.

As a near neighbor of the Arctic, Britain’s recent engagement with the region has been “too hesitant and cautious” a House of Lords Arctic Committee report said, while countries including France and Japan had already appointed ambassadors.

It said “momentous and unprecedented” change was under way in the Arctic, with temperatures rising twice as fast as the world average, that would impact the region’s environment and people. Arctic fish stocks will need better monitoring as sea ice recedes, while more should be done to look at whether oil and gas extraction in the region can be done safely, it said.

In May, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will kick off two years at the helm of the Arctic Council, which since 1996 has linked the United States, Russia, Canada and the Nordic countries, to coordinate policy in the polar region.

“The UK’s approach needs to be more strategic, better coordinated and more self-confident and proactive, or the UK risks being outmaneuvered by other states with less experience in the Arctic,” the House of Lords report said.

It said that given the increased unpredictability in the foreign policy of Russia, Britain could not be confident that peaceful cooperation in the region would continue indefinitely.

“Every effort should be made to insulate Arctic cooperation from geopolitical tensions arising in other parts of the world because there is a global interest in protecting this unusually vulnerable environment,” it said.

Reporting by Kylie MacLellan; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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