Norway, one of the world's largest exporters of oil, has opted to leave billions of barrels of oil beneath the sea. The country's largest political party has changed positions, deciding to withdraw support for explorative drilling off the Lofoten Islands in the Arctic, reports the Independent.
"Western Europe's biggest petroleum producer is falling out of love with oil," according to Bloomberg, which said the move by the opposition Labor party means parliament now has a majority to keep the area off-limits for drilling.
The decision has been praised by environmentalists because of the archipelago's beauty and ecological sensitivity, but it's a major setback for the country's oil industry.
"It takes courage and vision to stand up for systemic change. The permanent protection from oil drilling and exploration in Lofoten in Northern Norway should serve as an example for the rest of the world," said Paul Nicklen, co-founder of ocean conservation organization SeaLegacy, in a statement. Nicklen and fellow photographer Cristina Mittermeier founded SeaLegacy to use visual storytelling and community engagement to save places just like this.
The Lofoten islands are rich with life, including the world's largest deepwater coral reef.
Norway now pumps more than 1.6 million barrels of oil a day from offshore operations, according to the Independent. Estimates suggest there are somewhere between 1 billion and 3 billion barrels of oil off the Lofoten archipelago.
"The whole industry is surprised and disappointed," Karl Eirik Schjott-Pedersen, head of the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association, tells Bloomberg. "It doesn't provide the predictability we depend on."
But it may be as big a surprise to everyone. The debate has been ongoing for several years, and as the Independent points out, the move comes shortly after the government approved that billions from the country's oil fund be spent on wind and solar power projects instead. And last month, Norway said its oil fund would no longer invest in 134 companies that explore for gas and oil. It would, however, continue to invest in large oil companies that also focus on renewable energy.