C: Petr Šmerkl, Wikipedia
C: Petr Šmerkl, Wikipedia

Norway’s Lofoten Islands have been spared from oil development for at least another three years. The beautiful and fishing-rich islands in the northwest of Norway have long been threatened with oil development, but Norwegian activists have successfully kept the region off limits at every turn. In a critical victory, they have done it again.

On Sunday, Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg announced that the seas off Lofoten, along with neighbouring islands of Vesterålen and Senja, will not be opened for oil exploration during the current parliament, which lasts until 2021. It was a crucial concession as part of coalition negotiations to form the government. The overwhelming local opposition to the proposed drilling resonates strongly across the country.

Last summer, a group of climate activists and academics met in the Lofoten Islands, and drafted a declaration making a bold call for an end to fossil fuel exploration and expansion, and demanding that wealthy producer of oil, coal, and gas lead the way in a managed decline of production in line with the Paris climate limits.

The Lofoten Declaration has now been signed by hundreds of organizations, as well as former heads of state and multilateral organizations. The Declaration has become a touchstone in a world that is redefining climate leadership: you can no longer be a climate leader if you are a major fossil fuel producer without a plan to stop. Yet while the Lofoten Islands are safe for another three years, Norway continues to expand oil development ever deeper into the Barents Sea, in the country’s Arctic far north.

This is just one of countless regions around the world threatened by fossil fuel expansion that the climate cannot afford, but it is an important reminder of the power of the climate movement. Norway is facing mounting pressure both from within its borders and from beyond to be a first mover in redefining climate leadership. To be a real climate leader, the country must demonstrate how one of the world’s wealthiest nations can make a safe, equitable, and just transition off fossil fuel production. After all, if Norway won’t do it, who will?

As the world’s 7th largest exporter of emissions, a plan to manage the decline of the fossil fuel industry would change the conversation. It would prove that Norway does understand the scale of the climate crisis and what it is going to take to address it. We know we have more oil, coal, and gas in already producing reserves to take us past agreed-upon climate limits, and that we need producers to begin to plan for the end of era.

Protecting Lofoten, Vesterålen and Senja from exploration is another inspiring victory in a long history of protecting the region, but over the coming years, we will need much more from Norway and other countries like it. As the Lofoten Declaration affirms, “it is the urgent responsibility and moral obligation of wealthy fossil fuel producers to lead in putting an end to fossil fuel development and to manage the decline of existing production.”


Read the full Lofoten Declaration here.

Read a letter from Nobel Peace Laureates calling for Norwegian leadership here.