Norway will continue to search for oil and gas for the next four years, with most new drilling permits coming to developed areas, the new center-left government announced on Wednesday. The announcement comes as the EU revises its Arctic strategy and calls for a ban on new research in the region.
The coalition of the left and centrists will take power on Thursday after defeating the Conservative-led government in last month’s election.
“The Norwegian oil industry will grow and will not stop,” the two partner parties said in a joint policy paper, adding that they would maintain the existing exploration licensing system.
Although climate change was a major issue discussed during the election campaign, the left said it wanted to ensure that any transition from oil and gas, and the jobs created by the industry, were gradual.
Norway is the largest oil and gas producer in Western Europe, pumping about four million barrels of oil equivalent a day and deriving half of its hydrocarbon export earnings since the beginning of the year.
The oil industry welcomes the new government’s plans.
“Providing access to attractive areas is the most important measure that the authorities must provide for the continued development and value creation of the oil and gas industry, but also for financing the green transition,” said Norwegian Oil and Gas, a lobby group. .
The new minority government has to seek support from opposition parties in parliament for its policies, which complicates matters as some seek to curb oil drilling.
“We are about to get a new government, but with the same irresponsible policies as the previous one,” Frode Plame, head of Greenpeace Norway, told Reuters. “The government platform means full-forward for continuing oil exploration.”
The agreement on the European Economic Area, which allows Norway to be part of the EU’s single market without being a member of the European Union, will remain in force, said Jonas Gar Stoere, who will become prime minister in the new government.
“The single market agreement is at the heart of our relationship with Europe,” Stoere told reporters.
European Arctic ban
The European Union will demand a ban on the development of new Arctic oil, coal and gas fields to protect the region, which is hit hard by climate change, according to a proposal for the bloc’s new Arctic strategy published on Wednesday.
The European Commission’s proposal reflects the EU’s efforts to increase its role on the world stage, although it has limited influence in the Arctic. It is not a member of the Arctic Council, the regional coordinating body, although three of its Member States – Denmark, Finland and Sweden – are.
The EU is committed to ensuring that oil, coal, and gas remain in the country, including in the Arctic regions,” the EU executive’s proposal said, while acknowledging that the bloc itself still imports oil and gas. in the region.
“To this end, the Commission is working with its partners on a multilateral legal obligation not to allow further development of hydrocarbon reserves in the Arctic or neighboring regions, nor to purchase such hydrocarbons if they are produced.”
The Arctic is one of the regions most affected by climate change. The area has warmed three times faster than the rest of the planet in the last 50 years, causing rising sea levels and thawing of permafrost.
Under its new strategy, the EU also aims to step up research into the effects of thawing permafrost , which could put oil fields at risk and release greenhouse gases and dangerous microbes into the atmosphere.
“Over 70% of Arctic infrastructure and 45% of oil fields are built on permafrost,” the document, which has yet to be approved by the 27 EU member states, said.
Potential measures could include developing methods for local cooling and stabilization and introducing stricter construction standards, the commission said.
It is also proposed to set up a monitoring and early warning system to detect microbes such as anthrax released from the ground during thawing.
The Arctic Council consists of Canada, Iceland, Norway, Russia, and the United States, as well as the three EU countries, along with six indigenous organizations, and acts as a forum for cooperation. The EU has applied for observer status.
To strengthen its regional presence, the EU plans to open an office in the Greenland capital, Nuuk, as the United States did last year.