February 8, 2022

Silje Ask Lundberg, (CET)
Romain Ioualalen, (CET)

New briefing exposes Norway as Europe’s most aggressive oil and gas explorer
Rapid ramp-up of licensing makes Norway a ‘poster child for climate hypocrisy,’ groups say

OSLO, NORWAY — A new briefing released today reveals that, despite claiming to be one of the world’s climate leaders, Norway has exponentially ramped up its exploration licensing over the past 10 years, making it Europe’s most aggressive explorer for new oil and gas. Allowing further development of already licensed Norwegian oil and gas reserves could unleash climate pollution 60 times greater than Norway’s annual domestic emissions.

“Staying below 1.5 degrees requires a rapid wind down of oil and gas production and it is wealthy producers like Norway that have the means and the responsibility to move first and fastest,” said Oil Change International senior campaigner Silje Ask Lundberg. “Instead, Norway has in the last 10 years awarded as many exploration licences as in the 47 years prior. This rapid ramp up of oil and gas licensing is incompatible with climate leadership.” 

The briefing, published by Oil Change International, identifies two key steps the current Norwegian government can take in 2022 to signal that it is serious about its commitment to the Paris Agreement goals, and to begin to align its oil and gas policies with the critical 1.5°C limit: halt the exponential licensing system, called the Awards in Predefined Areas (APA), and reject Equinor Energy AS’s upcoming bid to develop a major new oilfield in the Arctic.

The key findings of the briefing are:

  • During the last 10 years, the Norwegian government awarded as many exploration licences – 700 – as in the 47 years prior. From 2012 to 2021, new licences issued by Norway opened up 2.8 billion barrels of new oil and gas resources for potential extraction, almost 3.5 times more than Europe’s second-largest producer, the United Kingdom.
  • Permitting development of oil and gas fields that are already licensed, but not yet producing, could lead to an additional 3 Gt of CO2 emissions globally. This is 60 times Norway’s annual domestic emissions. New licensing could increase these emissions by 80 percent. 
  • If approved, Equinor’s proposed Wisting field in the Arctic region of the Barents Sea, could lead to emissions of more than 200 million tons of CO2, equivalent to the annual emissions of 50 coal-fired power plants. The climate impact of the Wisting field could be three times greater than that of the Cambo field, the controversial U.K. project paused in late 2021 in the face of massive grassroots opposition.

A growing body of evidence, most recently from the International Energy Agency (IEA), shows that allowing development of new oil and gas fields let alone approving exploration for new oil and gas reserves is incompatible with limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

“Norway was one of the first countries in the world to ratify the Paris agreement, but at the same time they have continued an exponential growth in oil and gas licensing,” Lundberg continued. “The first steps the government should undertake in 2022 to begin to align its oil and gas policies with the critical 1.5°C limit are to halt the exponential licensing system and to reject Equinor’s bid to develop the Wisting oil field.”

Click here to read the full briefing:

Norwegian climate and environmental leaders responded to the briefing’s findings:

Frode Pleym of Greenpeace Norway said:

“This briefing reveals how Norway is a poster child for climate hypocrisy. Every new exploration well and every new oil field that Norway allows undermines a well-planned just transition and is a step closer to climate chaos. Investments need to be redirected to scale up new, green industries across the country and ensuring a just transition so that every worker can retrain and move into a good green job.”

Truls Gulowsen of Friends of the Earth Norway said:
“The science couldn’t be clearer: there isn’t room for any fossil fuel developments if we want a liveable climate. And yet the Norwegian government just issued over 50 new exploration licences in the vulnerable Arctic environments of the Barents Sea and is positive towards the Wisting oil and gas field, some 300 kilometres north of Norway’s northernmost coast. This new briefing shows unequivocally that Prime Minister Gahr Støre needs to halt expansion into the high Arctic immediately and start a just transition away from fossil fuels that creates secure, green jobs over the entire country.”

Karoline Andaur, CEO at WWF-Norway said:

“This briefing states how Norway is on the wrong track. New oil exploration locks capital and expertise into a sunset industry, a tremendous obstacle for a green and just transition. Continued investment has a downside regardless of the outcome: If the world’s climate policy succeeds, Norway risks abrupt market fall, which entails large financial losses for the state and welfare risk. And if climate policy does not succeed, the increased emissions will do irreparable damage to the planet, which will have economic consequences that far exceed a temporary income from oil and gas.”