US President Barack Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Tuesday (20 December) that they intend to implement bans on offshore gas and oil drilling in swathes of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans.
Obama is said to be using a provision in a law from 1953 to give himself the authority to create the bans, reported the New York Times. The US president's move would take into account a large part of the Atlantic coast from Virginia to Maine and parts of the coast of Alaska.
In a joint statement, the two world leaders said the plan was to "embrace opportunities and confront challenges in the changing Arctic".
"President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau are proud to launch actions ensuring a strong, sustainable and viable Arctic economy and ecosystem, with low-impact shipping, science based management of marine resources, and free from the future risks of offshore oil and gas activity," they said.
Obama has said that the moves would be permanent, with suggestions that he is attempting to stymie any efforts by his successor, President-elect Donald Trump, from reversing the bans. Trump has been vocally critical of Obama's environmental plans, claiming that his regulations result in job losses and less job creation.
Trump has been accused of being a climate change denier after in 2012 tweeting: "The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive."
In a statement, Obama said: "These actions, and Canada's parallel actions, protect a sensitive and unique ecosystem that is unlike any other region on earth.
"They reflect the scientific assessment that even with the high safety standards that both our countries have put in place, the risks of an oil spill in this region are significant and our ability to clean up from a spill in the region's harsh conditions is limited."
A policy adviser for an oil lobby told the New York Times that they could not see how the moves could be permanent. They said they are "hopeful" the Trump administration will reverse them "... and we look forward to working with them to make that happen".