Norway’s oil ministry plans to auction up to 136 new exploration blocks, including 125 in the Arctic Barents Sea, for oil and gas extraction. “We need new discoveries to uphold employment and value creation. I have good faith that the opportunities we now offer in the Barents Sea and the Norwegian Sea will be attractive to companies,” said Tina Bru, Norway’s minister of petroleum and energy. Environmental groups including the Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature have decried the move as “insanely irresponsible.” Norway maintains the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, worth over $1 trillion, in large part due to its vast oil reserves (Reuters, The Local).

The licensing round follows another controversial decision to continue to allow oil and gas exploration in an area known as the Marginal Ice Zone (MIZ). The MIZ is where Arctic sea ice meets the open sea, a uniquely biodiverse area that is particularly vulnerable to climate change. Norway also recently pledged to delay more than $10 billion in taxes for oil companies to encourage investment (Al Jazeera, Reuters). “By ignoring science, Norway is failing to provide global leadership on climate change and placing oil profits before nature,” said Peter Winsor, Director of the World Wildlife Fund Arctic Program (WWF). 

Earlier this month, Norway also faced criticism from Greta Thunberg, who was the head signatory of a June 9 letter to UN ambassadors of small developing states. The letter argued that Canada and Norway, both vying for a seat at the UN Security Council, should cease their oil and gas production in order to meet climate commitments. It stated that Norway now exports 10 times as many emissions as it produces domestically. Though a party to the Paris Agreement, Norway does not count fuel exports as part of its emissions production (EcoWatch, CBC).