Saturday

22nd Sep 2018

Focus

MEPs reject ban on Arctic oil drilling

  • An oil platform in Norway. (Photo: Swinsto101)

[Updated on 16 March at 14.02] MEPs have rejected a proposal saying that the EU should work for a total ban on oil drilling in the Arctic.

The proposal was part of the European Parliament's report on an integrated EU policy for the Arctic, which was voted on Thursday (16 March).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

MEPs voted to remove parts of the report that called for a future total ban on oil drilling and extraction of Arctic oil and gas, and that the EU should pressure international partners to put an end to offshore drilling in Arctic waters.

They let through, however, a paragraph supporting a ban on oil drilling in the icy Arctic waters of the EU and the EEA, a proposal without larger effect as Norway already bans drilling of icy waters.

The Arctic is estimated to hold 22 percent of the world's undiscovered oil and gas resources. The melting of Arctic ice is unlocking new opportunities in the form of shipping routes and gas and oil stocks, which could further hurt the environment.

The parliament's position is non-binding, but Norway has taken it very seriously nonetheless.

In the last few weeks, Norwegian MPs have travelled to Brussels in a bid to persuade MEPs to remove the controversial references.

Eirik Sivertsen, chair of the Norwegian parliament's delegation for Arctic cooperation, has furthermore sent a letter to MEPs saying that climate change “cannot be solved by symbolic actions.”

“The problems of climate change were not created in the Arctic and cannot be solved in the Arctic alone," he said.

There have also been calls for the Norwegian EU minister, Frank Bakke-Jensen, to resign over his handling of the situation.

Norway was the first industrial country in the world to ratify the 2015 climate Paris agreement, but all parties are committed to continued Arctic oil drilling.

Green pressure groups have taken legal action against the Norwegian government in an attempt to force it to stop offering new drilling licenses for the Barents sea.

The European Parliament debated the report on Wednesday evening.

Estonian liberal, Urmas Paet, a co-rapporteur, reminded MEPs that the EU is dependent on Norway if the bloc wants to reduce its dependence on Russian oil and gas. He argued that there is a need to respect international law, in reference to the law of the sea, which states that coastal states are sovereign to enjoy resources on the continental shelf.

Finnish centre-right MEP Sirpa Pietikainen, the other author of the report, told EUobserver that the centre-right EPP group didn't back the ban on Arctic drilling.

Pietikainen said it was nonetheless problematic that "anyone is drilling for more fossil fuels anywhere in the world, and in such sensitive areas as the Arctic in particular".

She argued that there was also a "carbon bubble", the idea that it's economically futile to invest in fossil fuels when most of the existing oil and gas reserves have to stay in the ground if we are to survive as a civilisation.

Pietikainen added that even if the report was non-binding, it was important because it could feed into EU legislation at a later stage, and this was what had made Norway nervous.

The parliament, in its final report, asked to step up cooperation between Arctic members so as to better protect the unique ecosystem. It spoke of the importance of listening to indigenous people, such as the Sami, and calls for the creation of a research centre - financed by the EU.

The Arctic's temperature has increased steadily over the years, around twice as fast as the global average. Sea ice has shrunk significantly - there is around 40 percent less than the amount in summer 35 years ago.

What Trump means for the Arctic

US air base in Greenand likely to expand, but Obama-era policies on global warming and environmental protection set to be main casualties of Trump rule.

In Iceland: Europe woos Arctic allies

The EU is requesting a status of observer at the Arctic Council, a regional forum in which Asian countries are already active.

Norway defends new Arctic oil drilling

Norway's oil and gas is "extremely important" for Europe's energy supply, oil minister says, rejecting calls to stop drilling to prevent global warming.

Swedes warned of EU collapse ahead of vote

The EU would "collapse" if parties like the far-right Sweden Democrats took power across Europe, Sweden's former leader, Carl Bildt, said in a TV duel six days ahead of elections.

Supported by

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  2. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  3. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  4. NORDIC COUNCIL OF MINISTERSNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs.
  5. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  6. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  7. IPHRCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  8. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs
  9. Mission of China to the EUJointly Building Belt and Road Initiative Leads to a Better Future for All
  10. IPHRCivil society asks PACE to appoint Rapporteur to probe issue of political prisoners in Azerbaijan
  11. ACCASocial Mobility – How Can We Increase Opportunities Through Training and Education?
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersEnergy Solutions for a Greener Tomorrow

Latest News

  1. Brexit and MEPs expenses in the spotlight This WEEK
  2. Wake-up call on European Day Against Islamophobia
  3. Sound of discord at 'Sound of Music' Salzburg summit
  4. Salzburg summit presses for bigger Frontex mandate
  5. UK's post-Brexit plan 'will not work', EU says
  6. Airbnb agrees to clarify pricing for EU
  7. Libya keeps coast guards rejected by the EU
  8. EU divisions on menu at Salzburg dinner

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFWhat Kind of Europe Do Children Want? Unicef & Eurochild Launch Survey on the Europe Kids Want
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Countries Take a Stand for Climate-Smart Energy Solutions
  3. Mission of China to the EUChina: Work Together for a Better Globalisation
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordics Could Be First Carbon-Negative Region in World
  5. European Federation of Allergy and AirwaysLife Is Possible for Patients with Severe Asthma
  6. PKEE - Polish Energy AssociationCommon-Sense Approach Needed for EU Energy Reform
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region to Lead in Developing and Rolling Out 5G Network
  8. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Economic and Trade Relations Enjoy a Bright Future
  9. ACCAEmpowering Businesses to Engage with Sustainable Finance and the SDGs
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersCooperation in Nordic Electricity Market Considered World Class Model
  11. FIFAGreen Stadiums at the 2018 Fifa World Cup
  12. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Work Together to Promote Sustainable Development

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us