Norwegian Battle Over the Ice Edge Starts This Week

The ice edge. Photo: Karine Nigar Aarskog / UiT

By the end of this week, the Norwegian government is to present a proposal about where to draw the edge of the polar ice.

Towards the end of this week, Norwegian Climate and Environment Minister Sveinung Rotevatn (Liberals) is expected to present the government’s proposal to management plan for the Barents Sea. That also brings the answer to where the government wants to draw the line of the ice edge.

Wants to move the ice edge

The ice edge is a factor in deciding how far north the oil industry is permitted to operate. Several environmental organisations and political parties like the Liberals and the Socialist Left Party want to draw the ice edge line further south. If they have it their way, eight of the existing oil exploration licenses will be located within the ice edge zone.

The yellow line indicates the ice edge boundary sought by Greenpeace as well as other environmental organizations and offices. If this were to be the outcome, eight licenses are currently within that line. The red line indicates an ice frequency of 30 percent of April days from 1967-1989, whereas the green line indicates an ice frequency of 30 percent of April days in 1988-2017. Illustration: Norsk olje og gass

Liberal Party leader Trine Skei Grande said to Norwegian TV2 last week that the Liberals’ MP group in parliament expect the ice edge zone to be moved further south, and that the oil industry is not permitted to enter the northern parts of the Barents Sea.

“I trust our people in government to keep this issue high on their agenda”, Skei Grande says to TV2.

“This issue is very important because the ice edge zone is a vulnerable nature area teething with life, be it plankton, fish or birds. An oil spill here would be disastrous, and we cannot take that risk.”

While the government is looking into how to change the ice edge, one of its cooperation partners is very critical. Progress Party leader Siv Jensen said to TV2:

“That would be a most unfortunate signal and the Progess Party will not accept moving the ice edge further south. I would like to remind the Prime Minister that she leads a minority government that depends on majority in parliament. She is the PM because the Progress Party pointed to her when we exited the government. If the government now intends to base its oil and gas policies on other principles than before and find a majority without the Progress Party, this government will live a very dangerous life”, Jensen said to TV2.

An oil spill here would be disastrous, and we cannot take that risk
Trine Skei Grande, Liberal Party leader

Wants to postpone decision

While the processing of the ice edge decision is scheduled for this spring, the Socialist Left Party’s environmental spokesperson Lars Haltbrekken worries about what the Corona crisis will do to this process. He therefore wants to postpone the whole case until the Corona situation is more stabilized.

“We cannot have a proper process in which organisations and other stakeholders can present their views in a proper way now, during the Corona crisis”, Haltbrekken says to NTB news agency.

“The battle about the ice edge is the most important environmental battle during this parliamentary term in office”, he warns.

If the process were to be postponed, it would, according to Haltbrekken, also mean that the 25th round of petroleum licenses would have to be moved, as the government’s platform document states that the licenses for oil exploration are not to be issued until the management plan has been decided on.

In light of the Corona crisis, oil prices have plummeted, and Norwegian oil investments are reduced by NOK 65-72 billion towards 2022, according to a recent analysis. The Progress Party thus argues that one should facilitate as much activity as possible in the petroleum industry, rather than restricting it.

“In the current situation for the Norwegian economy, Norway simply cannot afford that the Conservative government were to grant the Liberal Party a symbolic breakthrough on climate issues through moving the ice edge further south”, says Progress Party spokesperson on environment and energy, Jon Georg Dale, to NTB.


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