Thu Mar 16, 2017 03:59PM
This photo taken in the Arctic region on March 26, 2016 shows a perspective of the northeast coastline of Greenland. (Photo by AFP)
This photo taken in the Arctic region on March 26, 2016 shows a perspective of the northeast coastline of Greenland. (Photo by AFP)

Members of the European Parliament have voted against oil drilling in the Arctic region, emphasizing the necessity to preserve the icy waters' unique environment.

Lawmakers, who backed the ban with 483 votes to 100 and 37 abstentions on Thursday, said the European Union needs a strategy for future developments in a region being transformed by climate change.

The Finnish co-rapporteur of the European Parliament Sirpa Pietikainen said the Arctic region is very sensitive and vulnerable, warning of "catastrophic" effects of oil drilling on its resources, including global fish stocks.   

"If we destroy this area by using the resources there unsustainably, we shall not only be destroying a unique region, but also accelerating climate change and polluting a source of clean water," she said.

The non-binding motion also called for greater cooperation among Arctic states to safeguard the four-million indigenous people in the region from the impacts of global warming.

The lawmakers called for reduced military tensions as global warming is bringing new environmental and security challenges to the Arctic where the melting ice cap is opening up new navigation and fishing routes.

The Arctic has been warming about twice as fast as the global average and the sea ice has been shrinking significantly since 1981 to about 40% less than its summer extent 35 years ago.

This file handout photo released by NASA shows the Arctic ice cap has shrunk to 4.14 million square kilometers, Sept. 16, 2016.(Photo by AFP)

Parliament members further stressed the importance of “maintaining constructive cooperation, low tension and stability” in the region.

After a brief lull, the recent rise in oil prices has revived appetite for exploration in the Arctic and major oil companies are in competition for giant offshore fields in the region, alarming environmental groups.

The Arctic is estimated to hold more hydrocarbon reserves than the world's biggest oil producer, Saudi Arabia.

The United States, Denmark, Canada, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, and Sweden are all keen to stake their claim over the icy waters.