Green groups are calling on Norway to stop exploring for oil and gas in the Arctic, citing climate concerns.
NGOs including Greenpeace, Sierra Club and Alaska Wilderness League have written to oil minister Tord Lien, urging him to cancel drilling licenses.
The announcement last month of a 24th licensing round goes against the country’s commitment to the global climate deal struck in Paris, they argue.
“The vast majority of proven fossil fuel reserves cannot be burned if we wish to limit global warming to the goals agreed to in Paris,” says the letter.
“Now is the moment for Norway to walk the talk of the Paris climate agreement.”
The campaigners highlight a disconnect between the ambitious greenhouse gas emissions cuts countries have signed up to and continued exploitation of fossil fuels.
Coal mines and oil and gas fields already under operation contain enough carbon to blow the global warming limits in Paris, a recent report by Oil Change International found. If burned, these reserves will produce emissions in excess of the budget for holding temperature rise below 2C or 1.5C.
Expensive frontier projects risk getting stranded as tougher emissions curbs kick in, analysts warn. The Arctic is generally considered to fall into that category – and oil majors have shelved several ventures amid low oil prices and civil society pressure.
However, Norway’s largely state-owned producer Statoil argues it can extract oil in the northerly Barents Sea at a competitive cost.
The NGOs urged Minister Lien to look beyond such calculations: “The question must not be who will develop the last barrel of oil, it must be who will show the leadership needed to ensure we do not fail in our commitment to protect this and future generations from climate disruption.”