We know where to draw the line for oil in Norway

Posted on 04 April 2014    
NGOs participate in a rally in Norway against drilling for oil near the sea ice edge, Spring 2014.
© WWF-Norway
Norway’s Oil and Energy Minister Tord Lien needs to listen to clear environmental advice and cancel a round of oil and gas exploration licenses near the sea ice edge, says Secretary-General Nina Jensen of WWF-Norway.

In February the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy issued an announcement of proposed petroleum blocks in Norway’s 23rd licensing round. Oil and Energy Minister Tord Lien emphasized that Norway will facilitate oil and gas exploration farther north than it has been done before. In doing so, the Minister is crossing into a new frontier - the Barents Sea’s marginal ice zone. This transition zone between open water and the polar ice cap is considered to be the "engine" for life in the high Arctic.

United Environmental Movement in Norway
In a joint submission to the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy Seven organisations, including WWF, have warned Norway not to be the most aggressive country on Arctic oil and gas drilling through the block announcements in the 23rd licensing round.

"The marginal Ice zone is a unique area that facilitates vulnerable processes that are essential for life in the high Arctic. The area is already under increasing stress due to global warming and ocean acidification. An oil spill here could be disastrous", says Jensen.

Rally in front of the Parliament
WWF-Norway, together with allied environmental organizations demonstrated Friday the 4th of April in front of Parliament. Here they delivered their joint response to the Christian Democrats –a party who agrees with their concerns together with the Liberal party – both of which are members of of the four party government coalition formed last fall with the Conservative and Progress parties.

"In the cooperation agreement between the Christian Democrats, Liberals, Conservatives and the Progress Party, it was determined that there would not oil drilling at the ice edge. Yet it this is precisely what the Progress party affiliated Petroleum and Energy Minister intends to do. It is very important that the Christian Democrats and the Liberals stand their ground on this issue and help protect the fragile life in the Arctic", says Jensen.

Contradictive of Scientific and Environmental Management Advice
Out of the total of total of 54 blocks announced in the south-eastern Barents Sea and Northern Barents Sea, WWF and its allied organisations demand that 48 of them are not opened to ensure that oil pollution remains far outside of the marginal ice zone. This is based on a definition established by the organisations for the northern limit of petroleum – that that petroleum activities are not allowed within 100 km of the marginal ice zone’s maximum extent as recorded in the prior 30 years, with a resolution of 10 km2. The ice edge is defined as the southern limit of 10 percent ice cover.

WWF and its allies are not alone. In the 11th hour, the Norwegian Environment Agency and the Norwegian Polar Institute came with very clear discouragement of opening the ice-edge blocks, with underlying recommendations much in line with what the environmental community had been asking. Both of these bodies also point out that knowledge about species and ecosystem in the Barents Sea’s marginal ice zone is severely lacking, and oil spill response insufficient.

"The Arctic is a completed and dynamic region. We know that there isn’t any adequate spill response technology to clean up oil pollution in the sea ice. It is simply outrageous that the government is willing to put nature on the line to look for more oil and gas, when we know that the majority of all known oil and gas resources must be left in the ground", says Jensen.

"Now the government has full opportunity to show that they not just talk, but can show responsible action- staying away from the Ice edge".

NGOs participate in a rally in Norway against drilling for oil near the sea ice edge, Spring 2014.
© WWF-Norway Enlarge

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