Newsletter: The EU's Environmental Bomb Dropped in the Middle of the Oil Barrel

Panel om EU med Arne O. Holm, Arctic Circle 2021. (Foto: Trine Jonassen)
Thursday, Editor-in-Chief at High North News moderated a panel about the EU new Arctic Policy during the Arcic Circle conference in Reykjavik. (Photo: Trine Jonassen)

The EU starts the fight against exploitation of oil, gas and coal in the Arctic. Several actors in Arctic business ask the Union to kindly refrain. High North News reports directly from Iceland and Arctic Circle.

After almost two years with digital meetings and streaming as a semi-alternative to physical conferences, High North News is finally back in Iceland again. We – myself and our Editor-in-Chief Arne O. Holm – cover the Arctic Circle conference, which lasts from Wednesday to Saturday this week.

It took us three negative Corona tests (all participants are tested twice during the conference) and a green vaccination pass to get here. The reward for making our noses available for testing is a bracelet showing the world that we are infection-free.

It is like being at a huge festival where only those with the right color on their bracelet are allowed to the VIP area.

Meeting the people of the Arctic again is great. “The Arctic community rides again”, said one of our fellow conference attendees.

However, the Arctic Circle assembly is far more than small talk by the coffee stand. It is also an arena in which heads of state, politicians, scientists, and the media meet to debate issues that will characterize the Arctic in the time ahead. In this case, the EU’s environmental bomb, which was dropped earlier this week.

It was no secret that the EU’s new Arctic strategy would include stricter environmental requirements. However, on Wednesday, news broke that the EU Commission argues that oil, gas, and coal should not be exploited in the Arctic at all, if environmental goals are to be reached.

The Commission therefore asks for an international moratorium on the exploitation of hydrocarbons in the Arctic.

Reactions from Arctic businesses were swift. During a debate Thursday, Icelandic investor and Vice President of the Arctic Economic Council Heidar Gudjonsson asked the EU to kindly mind its own business – or its own territory.

Already during the opening speech at Arctic Circle, editor-in-chief Arne O. Holm noticed that a new and perhaps bigger challenge emerged: How can the Arctic win over the EU?

Or to reverse the question as he does in this week's Friday commentary: Should the Arctic win over the EU?

Our Editor-in-Chief Arne O. Holm later moderated a debate over the same theme, in which the EU’s Envoy for Arctic Issues Michael Mann participated along with several others. Here, too, Mann had to defend the strategy and explained that it is not an attack on business in the Arctic.

The Norwegian Confederation of Enterprise (NHO) also reacted to the EU’s new policy. Regional Director of NHO Nordland Daniel Bjarmann-Simonsen says the news came out of nowhere:

We here in the north cannot be given the main responsibility for mitigating Europe’s black conscience when it comes to climate changes”, he says to High North News.

You will find more news about Russia, the Norwegian state budget, the Faroe Islands and more at High North News.

We will keep reporting from Iceland throughout the week, so follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for updates, pics and news from the Saga island.

We, the editorial staff of High North News, wish you all the best for this October weekend, wherever you are!
Trine Jonassen,
News Editor, High North News

This article was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by HNN's Elisabeth Bergquist.