European Parliament to vote on Arctic drilling

ThinkstockPhotos-596779678 Credit: Think Stock Photos

This week the European Parliament is set to vote on oil drilling in the Arctic seawaters of the EU and EEA. The EU pursues strict and harmonised safety standards in the Arctic Council and for all Arctic coastal states.

– This is a welcome relief that the European Parliament is endorsing the adoption of this regulation. Even if it is not juristically binding, it gives a clear signal both to the Commission and to Norway, that Europe’s elected members do not support oil activity in Arctic areas, says Bellona advisor on Arctic matters, Sigurd Enge.

At the end of last year,  former US president Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau signed a moratorium on new oil activity in North-American Arctic areas.

– We very much appreciate that the European -Parliament is going forward with this resolution. It gives a push for entire Europe to fight against the Norwegian state’s risky quest for Arctic petrol, says Enge.

Opposed by Norwegian Labour Party and lobbyists in the oil and gas industry

Norwegian politicians from the Labour Party, Norway’s biggest political party, are strongly opposed to such a decision from Brussels. Also Northern-Norway’s Europe office has played an active role in the lobbying campaign, as well as Norwegian politician Karl-Eirik Schjøtt-Pedersen from Norwegian oil and gas industry.

Furthermore, the Labour Party claims that EU parliamentarians want to convert the Arctic into a “nature reserve”, but this resolution is about the removal of unacceptable risk posed by the oil activity in these fragile areas. It will provide more space for the renewable industries which play an important role for future job opportunities and work market, concludes Enge.

EU has gone forward before

Director of Bellona Europa, Jonas Helseth Photo: Foto: Bellona

The two most relevant committees in the European Parliament already voted largely in favour of this decision, now leaving this up to the Parliament plenary to give its final approval.

– Such vote is not binding, but will put forward the constraints for EU’s Arctic policy. We see it as a great advantage, that the Parliament has such offensive strategy. The Arctic environment will depend on pressure from the EU if Norway fails to do what is required, says Jonas Helseth, director of Bellona Europa in Brussels.

He further states that it is not the first time that EU politicians are more forward leaning than the Norwegians, when it comes to environmental issues.

– The European Parliament has taken the lead when it comes to promoting offshore-safety and a ban on heavy fuel oil in the Arctic. In both cases, Bellona Europa has played a significant role in the policy design and development. Now the Parliament urges an end to Arctic oil drilling, and Norway should be listening, says Helseth.

The Parliament votes today on the following decision:

«14. Calls on the EU to promote strict precautionary regulatory standards in the field of environmental protection and safety for oil exploration, prospection and production internationally; calls for a ban on oil drilling in the icy Arctic waters of the EU and the EEA and for promotion by the EU of comparable precautionary standards in the Arctic Council and for Arctic coastal states;”

Bellona Europa

europe@bellona.org