‘We will continue with oil and gas’: Norway PM

Norway’s prime minister has dismissed calls for an end to further offshore oil and gas exploration in her country, after nearly 200 countries signed a historic deal on Saturday to push for zero net emissions in the second half of the century.

'We will continue with oil and gas': Norway PM
Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg with Fredric Hauge, co-founder of the Norwegian environmental group Bellona at the start of the Paris conference on November 30. Photo: Berit Roald / NTB scanpix
“We’re going to continue with oil and gas,” Erna Solberg said on Sunday, in comments echoed both by her Progress Party coalition partners and the Labour Party opposition. 
Norwegian environmentalists on Saturday and Sunday called for a dramatic halt to new oil and gas activity in the wake of the Paris agreement. 
“Parliament should cancel the entire 23rd licensing round and stop exploration for new oil and gas resources on the Norwegian shelf,” the Green Party MP and spokesman Rasmus Hansson declared in a call that was backed by the country’s Socialist Left Party. 
Trine Skei Grande, leader of the minority Liberal Party said that the Paris deal should push Norway to shelve plans to open up the picturesque Lofoten islands to exploration, a prospect which has generated strong opposition in the country. 
“The goal of limiting the temperature rise to 1.5 degrees means that all Norway's plans for oil and gas need to be revised,” she told Norway's Dagbladet tabloid.  Opening up new fields in Lofoten and Vesterålen for the extraction of oil and gas would be luring the industry to make investments that will never pay off.” 
“One of the first thing we must do is to cancel oil drilling in the Arctic,” said Lars Haltbrekken from the Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature. 
“There is absolutely no room for Norwegian oil from the Barents Sea or Norwegian gas much beyond 2040 in a 1.5C scenario,” Truls Gulowsen, from Greenpeace Norway said. 
Jonas Gahr Støre, the leader of Norway’s Labour Party backed Solberg’s call for the upcoming licensing round to go ahead, arguing that the natural gas Norway supplies to Europe was helping to reduce carbon emissions by cutting consumption of coal. 
“It helps that Norway supplies gas to Europe. It is important to bring about a shift away from coal,” he said. “I have not seen any analysis that has shown that shutting down the Norwegian oil and gas industry will increase the use of renewable energy in Europe.” 

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Norway rules out 2022 oil licences in unexplored areas

Norway will not grant new oil exploration licences in virgin or little-explored areas in 2022 under a political compromise on Monday that hands a modest  victory to opponents of fossil fuels.

Norway rules out 2022 oil licences in unexplored areas
A photo taken on August 30, 2021 shows the Petroleum Museum in Stavanger, Norway, built to show the history of Norway's oil exploration. Norway is the largest producer of hydrocarbons in Western Europe. In the face of the climate emergency, voices are being raised to abandon fossil fuels for good. Petter BERNTSEN / AFP

The Scandinavian country’s governing centre-left coalition supports continuing oil and gas activities but does not have a parliamentary majority, making it reliant on socialist MPs who prioritise green issues.

As part of a compromise on the draft 2022 budget, three parties agreed on Monday that Norway — Western Europe’s largest hydrocarbon producer — would not hold a 26th so-called “ordinary” concession round next year.

This mechanism has allowed oil companies to apply for exploration in previously unexplored areas of the Norwegian continental shelf since 1965.

But the deal does not rule out awarding oil licences in already heavily exploited areas.

Since the North Sea has been extensively explored, the agreement mainly concerns the Barents Sea in the Arctic

The oil industry was a major issue in legislative elections in September, indicating Norway’s growing difficulties in reconciling environmental concerns with exploiting energy resources.

In the 25th concession round in early 2021, only seven oil companies, including Equinor, Shell and Lundin, applied — the lowest number since at least 1978 according to local media.