Norway is one of the leading oil producing countries, and its vast fossil fuel development arm has helped create the largest sovereign wealth fund in the world.
But now the Scandinavian country has signaled that it could be entering a new, sustainable era.
The country’s leading opposition party, the Labor Party, withdrew its support for drilling in the Arctic, which gives the government enough votes to protect the highly sensitive Lofoten Islands in Norway’s Arctic from extraction efforts, according to Bloomberg News.
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The change of heart could prevent billions of barrels of oil from being developed, a move that environmentalists say is critical for preventing the worst consequences of climate change.
For the climate to remain within a manageable temperature range, most of the oil left in the world has to remain in the ground.
“[The decision is] very noble,” said youth climate activist Greta Thunberg on Twitter. “But since Norway continues to drill for oil everywhere else it doesn’t really mean that much. The fossil fuels must stay in the ground.”
The country’s oil and gas lobby was upset about the development, claiming that it jeopardizes the industry’s long-term stability, Bloomberg reports.
Companies in other countries could still drill in the Arctic, but Norway’s decision could spur an industry-wide shift toward sustainability.
The United States had been trying to spur drilling in the area, but a federal judge recently blocked the Trump administration’s efforts.
The United Nations, meanwhile, is working to broker a global agreement to protect the Arctic, arguing that the region’s remoteness would make it hard to contain an oil spill, sensitive wildlife would be harmed by extraction projects, and that it's the only way to achieve the goals set by the Paris climate agreement.