Thursday

22nd Aug 2019

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.

Trump to meet Greenland leader in Denmark

Donald Trump is to meet Greenland leader Kim Kielsen while in Denmark next month, amid global attention prompted by Trump's offer to buy the vast island.

Stakeholder

Climate policy in Nordics: how to maximise global impact?

To maximise the global impact of climate policy, Norwegian economists recommend a shift of focus - from national emissions reductions, to clean technology development and better use of international emissions-trading systems, notably EU market mechanisms.

Supported by

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  5. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  7. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  8. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  9. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  10. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  4. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  7. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  9. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  12. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us