Sustainable use: Oil & gas development

WWF is working to reduce the impacts of oil and gas exploration and development on marine habitats.
In order to avoid predicted escalating impacts of climate change, WWF promotes an energy transition away from fossil fuels - especially coal - to 100% renewable energy sources by 2050.

In the meantime, we are working to ensure that existing developments - as well as de-commissioning of facilities - do not impact the most sensitive marine areas and biodiversity, and to minimize impacts on all other areas.

We are also working to ensure that any new exploration and developments meet the highest environmental standards and follow a precautionary approach.

And, we are working to ensure that oil and gas developments do not threaten the well-being of communities, particularly local communities and indigenous people.

To achieve this, we are working to:

We are also working to protect sensitive marine habitats and species from the impacts of climate change.

 / ©: Vladimir Potansky / WWF-Russia
Western gray whale (Eschrichtius robustus) feeds near oil platform off Russia's Sakhalin Island.
© Vladimir Potansky / WWF-Russia

What's the problem?

The exploration, extraction and use fossil fuels has serious environmental consequences. Climate change tops the list, but offshore prospecting and drilling for oil and gas also puts sensitive marine biodiversity and habitats at risk.

Norway puts nature before oil

Following many years of advocacy by WWF and others, in 2011 the Norwegian Parliament took another step in preventing oil drilling in the country's Lofoten Islands. 

The Lofoten Islands are home to the world's largest cod and herring stocks, whales, large sea bird colonies, and the world's biggest cold-water coral reef, which was only discovered in 2002. The island community is almost entirely dependent on fishing and tourism for survival. 

Norwegian oil companies like Statoil have been pressuring the Norwegian government to open up the region to oil and gas exploration. However WWF and many other environmental groups identified the Lofoten region as a "no-go area" for offshore oil drilling, due to its outstanding natural values and as the proposed oil development threatened both the region's biodiversity and the islanders' livelihoods. 

Norwegian government scientists said the direct impact of oil development - from seismic survey work, which can disturb fish and whales, to the devastation potentially caused by an oil spill - would be disastrous for sensitive marine environments such as those of the Lofoten Islands.

In 2003, the Norwegian government designated the Lofoten Islands as a temporary petroleum-free zone, after successful campaigning by WWF and others. 

2011 saw another victory: the Norwegian government decided against an environmental impact assessment in sea areas outside the Lofoten archipelago, which in reality would have been a precursor to oil and gas activities.

The decision shows that the government is putting the value of nature ahead of oil development. This should be seen as a world-leading example that it is possible to leave valuable oil resources in the ground. The decision stands until next general election in 2013.
 / ©: WWF-Norway/Frode Johansen / WWF-Canon
Henningsvær Harbour, Lofoten, Norway.
© WWF-Norway/Frode Johansen / WWF-Canon

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