Norway’s claims to climate leadership branded as hypocritical, Europe’s most aggressive oil and gas explorer has issued more than 700 exploration licenses in the past 10 years

Norway claims to be one of the world’s climate leaders and was one of the first countries to ratify the Paris Agreement, but is following an aggressive policy of expanding its oil and gas industries and has increased its licenses for exploration exponentially over the past. 10 years, Oil for Change (OIC), a research and advocacy organization focused on the clean energy transition said in a Report.

In a recently published brief, OCI said that in the last ten years (2012-2022), the Norwegian government granted as many exploration licenses (700) as in the period 1965-2012, making Norway the most aggressive explorer in Europe.

Norway has opened up 2.8 billion barrels of new oil and gas resources for potential extraction, nearly 3.5 times more than Europe’s second-largest producer, the United Kingdom, the OIC noted.

Allowing the development of oil and gas fields that are already licensed but not yet in production could result in an additional 3 billion tonnes of CO2 emissions globally, the OIC estimated.

“To put that into perspective, that’s 60 times Norway’s annual national emissions. New licenses could increase those emissions by 80 percent.” the briefing said.

The OIC has drawn attention to the possibility that Norway will approve exploration in the Wisting field, which is in the ecologically sensitive Arctic region of the Barents Sea. If approved, it is estimated that exploration and extraction in the Wisting field could result in emissions of over 200 million tonnes of CO2, equivalent to the annual emissions of 50 coal-fired power plants.

“By the size of the reserves, Wisting could become the largest Norwegian oil asset approved by the government this decade, whose impact on the climate could be three times greater than that of the Cambo oil field, now on pause, proposed to the United Kingdom,” the briefing notes.

Global oil giant Equinor plans to seek approval for the development of the Wisting oil field in the Barents Sea in 2022

OCI pointed out that during his speech at the United Nations climate conference in Glasgow, COP26, Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre underlined his commitment to climate action.

“It’s existential. It’s urgent,” Norway’s Prime Minister said during the address. “And it’s possible – if we strengthen our commitments together.” Støre also promised to increase the ambition of the country and also to accelerate the transition to clean energy.

Highlighting the hypocrisy of Norway’s claims for climate leadership even as it pursues an aggressive policy promoting new oil and gas exploration and extraction, the OIC said that in reality it is a laggard climate change and still a fossil fuel pioneer.

“If the current Norwegian government wants to be taken seriously on climate issues, it must review the country’s oil and gas policies and align them with the goals of the Paris Agreement and the principles of global equity. This briefing recommends to the Labor government should end the predefined area licensing (APA) system and reject Equinor’s bid to develop the Wisting oil field.” the briefing ended.

Mary I. Bruner