Environmentalists fear the move by the privately held investment firm based in the US will accelerate exploitation of the region
Leo Hickman guardian.co.uk
Guggenheim Partners, a privately held investment firm based in the US, which manages more than $125bn worth of assets on behalf of its clients, has confirmed it is setting up a new fund dedicated to making investments in the Arctic region.
The news has been criticised by environmentalists who fear that it will further accelerate the exploitation by oil and shipping companies of the region which is being made even more accessible by climate change.
The fund was first revealed over the weekend at a conference held by the Juneau World Affairs Council in the Alaskan capital on the “politics of climate change“. Alice Rogoff, the publisher of Alaska Dispatch who is married to one of America’s wealthiest men, Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein, told the conference that she had learned Guggenheim Partners was planning a fund “worth billions”. She added that it might concentrate first on building a privately funded icebreaker, which could then be leased to the US coastguard.
There have been growing calls in Alaska for a $1bn “heavy” ice breaker which could be used not just to help tackle any possible oil spills and perform search and rescue duties, but also further secure new shipping routes into the area. Shell confirmed last year that it is already building two of its own icebreakers in preparation of it being granted an extended permit to drill in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas from next year onwards.
Mead Treadwell, Alaska’s lieutenant general, said the fund was a “major announcement” for the region, adding that the Alaskan Arctic also currently lacks a deepwater port. Without such a port available, he said, oil companies would incur extra costs by having to supply a “flotilla” of support vessels when drilling at sea.
The Guggenheim Partners website posted a link to an Alaska Dispatch story about the fund, but a company spokesman refused to provide any specific details. “We are in the very early planning stages for an Arctic investment fund,” said Jeffrey Kelley. “At this point in time it would be premature to comment further about potential structure or investment parameters.”
A permanently secured route through the Bering Strait up into the Arctic would be a major boon to shipping companies and resource extractors. Last month, Nordic Bulk Carriers, a Danish shipping company, said it would save a third of its usual costs and nearly half the time shipping goods if a route to China was available through the Arctic instead of via the Suez Canal and the Indian Ocean.
Ben Ayliffe, an Arctic campaigner for Greenpeace, criticized the fund: “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. But, even by its own standards, 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’.”
Greenpeace is campaigning for the Arctic to be better protected.
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