EU parliament rejects total Arctic drilling ban. Focuses on ‘icy waters’

The European Union parliament members have rejected a motion for a total ban on Arctic oil and gas exploration, as proposed by an Arctic policy resolution voted on Thursday, and focused only on the ‘icy waters.’

The European Parliament on Thursday adopted a resolution on an integrated European Union policy for the Arctic, focusing on both geopolitical and environmental aspects of the Arctic region.

The EU has three member states in the region: Sweden, Finland, and Denmark (as Greenland is part of Danish Realm).

The MEPs have warned that that Arctic has been warming about twice as fast as the global average and that sea ice has been shrinking significantly since 1981, to about 40% less than its summer extent 35 years ago.

“The Arctic region is very sensitive and vulnerable. If we destroy this area by using the resources there unsustainably, we shall not only be destroying a unique region, but also accelerating climate change and polluting a source of clean water. The effects on global fish stocks would also be catastrophic“, said co-rapporteur Sirpa Pietikainen (EPP, Finland).

However, the two proposed notions calling for a total ban on exploration and exploitation of offshore oil and gas from the Arctic have been dismissed.

The resolution that was passed by 483 votes to 100, with 37 abstentions, calls on the Member States to ban fossil fuel subsidies that lower the cost of fossil fuel energy production, “with a view to discouraging the exploitation and use of fossil fuels.”

Furthermore, the resolution 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.

It also 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. This means that there is no proposed drilling ban for the “ice-free” waters of the Arctic region.

Worth noting, the EU resolution has also recalled that under the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement, Iceland and Norway, which are not the EU members, have made commitments to preserve the quality of the environment and ensure the sustainable use of natural resources, in line with relevant EU legislation.

Norway on Monday proposed a total of 102 nominated offshore oil exploration blocks for public consultation, 93 of which are in the Barents Sea.

According to the EU Parliament’s press officer, the European Parliament resolution does not carry a legal obligation, but serves more as a political position and venue to start the debate on important issues.

“MEPs expect the European Commission, which is in charge proposing legislation, to react how this topic could be followed up,” the EU spokesperson said in an email to Offshore Energy Today.

Offshore Energy Today Staff