Norway withdraws support for further oil exploration in Arctic Circle

The biggest party in Norway’s parliament has withdrawn support for explorative offshore drilling around the Lofoten islands – an ecologically sensitive archipelago in the Arctic Circle.

The decision has dealt a major setback to Norway’s sizeable oil industry, which currently pumps more than 1.6 million barrels a day, but is a major win for environmentalists in the fight against climate change.

Norway is the biggest petroleum producer in Western Europe, but its decision to leave up to three billion barrels of oil underneath the Lofoten islands provides evidence that political support for the oil sector is on the wane.

Karl Eirik Schjott-Pedersen, head of the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association, said:  “The whole industry is surprised and disappointed. It [the decision] does not provide the predictability we depend on.”

However, co-founder of ocean conservation group SeaLegacy Paul Nicklen said: “It takes courage and vision to stand up for systemic change. The permanent protection from oil drilling and exploration in Lofoten in Northern Norway should serve as an example for the rest of the world.”

Last week, the Norwegian government approved plans to invest over US$20 billion in unlisted renewable energy infrastructure, in a further sign of the country’s attempt to reduce its carbon footprint.