Norway to allow risky Arctic drilling | WWF

Norway to allow risky Arctic drilling

Posted on 20 January 2015    
Map of the sea ice edge (green) and petroleum licence blocks, Barents Sea, Norway. Blocks released in January 2015 are orange.
© Norwegian Polar Institute
OSLO, NORWAY - January 20, 2015 - Norway’s government is defying its own scientific advisory bodies and allowing oil drilling in the Barents Sea, north of Norway. Ironically, the announcement was made during the Norwegian “Arctic Frontiers” meeting where government ministers were announcing plans for sustainability in the Arctic.

“The government is willing to put nature on the line to look for more oil and gas," says WWF Conservation Director Arild Skedsmo. “It is showing that it does not intend to follow its own promises of restructuring and lifting Norway out of oil dependency. Any transition to a renewable economy has been postponed and it's full throttle toward the north. This is totally unacceptable”

Many of the blocks released for petroleum licensing are close to the sea ice zone that had previously been protected. The announcement took place immediately after the Climate and Environmental Minster, Tine Sundtoft, had redefined what area would be protected, on the grounds that the ice edge has moved north.

“This is the wrong decision," says leader of WWF's Climate and Energy Initiative Samantha Smith. "Oil development has no place close to the ice edge, which is the biological heart of this area. In its eagerness to appease the oil  industry, the government has ignored even the recommendations of its own technical bodies and the Ministry of Environment.
We see a world that is increasingly serious about avoiding dangerous climate change. Scientists tell us we won’t achieve climate goals unless these and other Arctic resources stay in the ground. If the Norwegian government is serious about climate change, it will have to do more than talk." 
Finally, a large part of the costs of development will be borne by Norwegian taxpayers, through tax breaks and subsidies for the industry. In today’s low price environment for oil and gas, this is a risky and high stakes gamble with public funds.”

The announcement of petroleum licenses defies clear advice from the scientific authorities at Norway’s Environment Directorate and the Norwegian Polar Institute. Both have strongly discouraged petroleum activities in the area along the ice edge and point out that knowledge about species and ecosystems in this area of the Barents Sea is very lacking.

The announcement is also contrary to the government’s own recent announcements about the need for a restructuring to prepare Norway for a climate safe future.

“Allowing increased oil business that both reinforces the climate crisis and afflicts the world's most vulnerable natural areas, it is absolutely the opposite of what Prime Minister Solberg claims she will do. The government has no credibility” says Skedsmo.

The ice edge is essentially the biological engine in the Arctic. When the ice retreats northward in spring and summer it is followed by an explosion of life. This makes the zone at the ice edge is the most important marine area in the Arctic where potential oil spills involve far greater ecological consequences than in waters outside the Arctic.

“We know that there is not sufficient spill response technology for the Arctic today. There is no doubt that an oil spill in connection with the important area of the ice edge - already highly vulnerable due to global warming and ocean acidification - will be catastrophic,” says Skedsmo.

For more information:
Arild Skedsmo
Conservation Director Policy
Mob: +47 99 46 35 31, Tel: +47 22 03 65 00

Samantha Smith 
Leader, Global Climate and Energy Initiative 
WWF International
Map of the sea ice edge (green) and petroleum licence blocks, Barents Sea, Norway. Blocks released in January 2015 are orange.
© Norwegian Polar Institute Enlarge

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required
Donate to WWF

Your support will help us build a future where humans live in harmony with nature.

Enter Yes if you accept the terms and conditions
Enter Yes if you accept the terms and conditions