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Norway considers Unesco protection for Svalbard

There are conflicting views about the proposed inclusion of Svalbard in the Unesco's World Heritage list. Photo: Thomas Nilsen/BarentsObserver

The inclusion of Svalbard in Unesco’s World Heritage list could hamper the Arctic archipelago’s role in future energy projects, industry representatives argue.

Location

According to Teknisk Ukeblad, Norway plans to nominate parts of the Svalbard archipelago to the prestigious UN protection list. In addition, a new management plan for the area includes expanded environmental regulations for the area.

Oil industry representatives now voice skepticism about the status of the islands, which are located in strategic Arctic waters. Stricter environmental regulations could affect future development of local oil and gas-related logistics, bases and supply facilities, they argue.

“The protection of the waters east of Svalbard would conflict with important Norwegian geopolitical, industrial and economic interests, Johan Petter Barlindhaug, Board Chairman of the North Energy company, says to TU.no.

In connection with the plans for a Unesco nomination, the Norwegian Ministry of Energy and Petroluem is now starting up an assessment study on the islands’ potentials in future oil and gas projects. If the northern parts of the Barents Sea are opened for drilling, Svalbard might be strategically well situated for base functions.

As previously reported, Norway’s Minister of Petroluem and Energy has on several occasions expressed interest in expanding drilling “to the North Pole”.

Polar areas are currently little represented in the Unesco’s World Heritage list. So far, only the Wrangle islands and the Ilulissat Isfjord are on the list, the UN organization informs. The Norwegian Ministry of Environment in 2007 proposed to include Svalbard in the UN tentative list of new protection sites.