Russian Socio-Ecological Union supports Norwegian colleagues in their fight against plans for oil extraction off the coast of northern Norway

In the near future, the Government of Norway will decide on whether to open up new areas in the north of Norway for oil and gas drilling. The sea areas off the coast of Lofoten, Vesterålen and Senja are among the most scenic and biodiveristy rich areas in Norway. Opening them up to oil and gas industry will not only put the valuable ecosystems at risk, but also further increase Norway's greenhouse gas emissions from a large and growing petroleum sector. RSEU supports Norwegian environmental non-governmental organizations in their fight against such a decision. RSEU signed a letter to the Prime Minister of Norway, asking him not to make a decision about opening the Lofoten Islands region for oil and gas production.

Letter to the Prime Minister of Norway

Mr. Jens Stoltenberg, Prime Minister of Norway
The Office of the Prime Minister
P.B. 8001 Dep

We, the undersigned organizations, are writing to you to express our concerns about the plan to open up the areas outside Lofoten, Vesterålen and Senja for oil and gas activity, currently being considered by your Government.

Norway is seen by many to be a leader among industrialized nations in the process towards a just and effective international climate change agreement. Your commitment at COP 15 in Copenhagen to reduce emissions by up to 40 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020 is an example to other countries of the developed world. However, if emissions continue to grow from Norwegian oil and gas production, already the main contributor to the country's relatively high per capita emissions, Norway's commitment to combating climate change will be in doubt.

If the world is to be effective in preventing dangerous climate change, a large portion of the available fossil fuels will have to be left in the ground. Even if the dirtiest fuels such as coal and unconventional oil are left untapped, the world's proven and recoverable oil and gas reserves are still large enough to pose a significant risk for a global temperature rise of more than 2˚C. Opening new areas to oil and gas activity will bring the world further away from the goal of limiting global temperature rise to 2˚C or lower levels.

In this situation, avoiding oil and gas activity in some of the world's most sensitive and biodiversity rich ecosystems should be an easy choice. The pristine areas offshore of the Lofoten, Vesterålen and Senja archipelagos in the North of Norway, are among these valuable ecosystems. The area holds unique cold-water reefs, pods of sperm whales and killer whales, some of the largest seabird colonies in Europe as well as being the spawning grounds of the largest remaining cod stock in the world. We support the call of local fisheries organizations and environmental groups for these areas to be protected from the risks and emissions associated with oil and gas activity.

We, the undersigned organizations, represent a broad range of environmental organizations, social movements and other civil society organizations. Many of us are involved in our own struggles to keep dirty fossil fuels such as coal or tar sands in the ground, or to ensure a cleaner and safer operation of oil and gas production. If Norway, as one of the richest countries in the world, were to show that not even the valuable and unique areas of Lofoten, Vesterålen and Senja are "off limits" for the oil and gas industry, it would set a disappointing precedent internationally, and make it harder for us to argue for stronger restrictions on oil and gas activity from our governments.

Sir, you have personally pointed out that reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation is among the fastest ways of reducing global emissions, because keeping the forest standing requires no new technology. We would like to remind you that keeping undiscovered oil and gas in the ground similarly requires no costly or technologically advanced measures. In the case of Lofoten, Vesterålen and Senja it would also yield many of the same co-benefits for biodiversity and local communities as will reducing emissions from deforestation.

We ask you to live up to Norway's reputation as a leader in environmental issues and a strong supporter of keeping global temperature rise below 2˚C. We ask that your government protect the areas of Lofoten, Vesterålen and Senja against oil and gas activity.

With best regards,