The British Environment Audit Committee called for a halt to oil drilling in arctic regions until comprehensive spill response standards are in place, environmental reviews are conducted and sanctuaries established.
Audit Committee Chairwoman Joan Walley called on oil companies to acknowledge that arctic campaigns come with inherent risks.
"The oil companies should come clean and admit that dealing with an oil spill in the icy extremes of the arctic would be exceptionally difficult," she said in a statement.
Walley said the committee heard evidence that a late-season spill could potentially linger in the region for as long as six months because of oil-spill response limitations.
Longer periods of thaw in the arctic regions are exposing vast deposits of oil and natural gas. The U.S. government this week gave Royal Dutch Shell permission to start some work in the arctic waters off Alaska, though its campaign has been limited to preliminary work. Cairn Energy's efforts in the arctic waters off the coast of Greenland fell short of the company's expectations.
The British audit found that the country is warming more slowly than the rest of continental Europe.
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