Minister of the Environment Guðlaugur Þór Guðlaugsson has announced that he will resubmit a bill to Parliament banning oil exploration within Iceland’s exclusive economic zone, RÚV reports. The ban is “fully consistent with the government’s climate policy,” says the minister.
Focusing on green, Icelandic energy
Last spring, Minister of the Environment Guðlaugur Þór Guðlaugsson submitted a bill to Parliament banning oil exploration within Iceland’s exclusive economic zone. The bill was in line with the ruling parties’ government agreement, which stipulated that the authorities would not grant any oil-exploration licences (while also setting a few climate-related goals, among them Iceland becoming carbon-neutral by 2040).
Although the bill was not voted on prior to Parliament’s summer hiatus, the minister has now announced his intention of resubmitting the bill this fall, RÚV reports. The ban will not only extend to oil exploration within Iceland’s exclusive economic zone but will also ban all research and oil and gas processing in the area. The bill implies revisions to several Icelandic laws.
When asked by RÚV whether eliminating this option during the energy crisis in Europe was wise, the minister responded thusly: “This option would not solve our current problems. Any benefit from oil exploration would not be felt in a matter of years – but decades. We do, however, need energy, and we’ve got it. We know how to generate energy, by which I’m referring to geothermal heat, hydroelectric power, and other alternatives.”
As noted by RÚV, the history of oil exploration in Iceland is relatively brief, having mostly been focused on the so-called “Dragon Zone” to the northeast of Iceland. The first oil-exploration licences were granted in 2012. Three companies were granted licences, all three of which have since relinquished them (the last of which in 2018).
The minister clarified that any criticism of the bill, which was “perfectly natural,” stemmed mainly from the observation that Europe, and the world at large, was facing an energy crisis – but that that energy was needed quickly.
“Those countries with which we like to compare ourselves – not just because of climate change but also because they’re trying not to rely on Russia – are trying to find [cleaner solutions fast], which is why our focus is, first and foremost, on green Icelandic energy.”
In a “prime position”
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir addressed the bill during her keynote speech before Parliament, observing that Iceland was in a “prime position” to transition to greener sources of energy for the sake of public and planetary good, by ensuring, among other things, that energy companies owned by the Icelandic government would not be sold.
“A bill will be submitted that will ban oil exploration in Iceland’s exclusive economic zone. It’s important that this bill be passed for it offers a clear message to the world: Iceland intends to do its part when it comes to the greatest challenge of our time; we are driving full-speed ahead out of the carbon economy – and into a new, green economy,” Katrín stated.