TORONTO, May 16 (UPI) -- Canada's ascension to the head of the multilateral Arctic Council should raise concerns about environmental stewardship, Greenpeace said.
Canada took over as the leader of the Arctic Council at the group's annual meeting this week in Sweden.
Advocacy group Greenpeace said it viewed Canada's positions at the eight-member council as a sign that energy interests were holding sway over environmental concerns.
Greenpeace Canada coordinator Christy Ferguson said Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper had a "destructive agenda" in mind for the Arctic Council.
"If Harper plans to do to the arctic what he's done to Canada, anyone who cares about the future of this fragile region should be scared," Ferguson said in a statement.
Greenpeace has campaigned against oil development plans in Canada. Harper travels this week to the United States to press for approval for the Keystone XL pipeline, a project meant to carry Canadian oil sands to southern U.S. ports.
European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Maria Damanaki said the European Union would work "expeditiously" to allay Canadian concerns.
China, India and South Korea were among countries given observer status in the council, though Canada objected to a similar bid by the European Union because of a ban on Canadian seal exports.
The council itself includes Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden and the United States
Warmer temperatures are leaving parts of the arctic ice-free for longer periods of the year. That has exposed vast areas thought to hold oil and natural gas reserves and is opening shipping lanes north of Russia.