Denmark to end new oil and gas exploration in North Sea

Denmark has brought an immediate end to new oil and gas exploration in the Danish North Sea as part of a plan to phase out fossil fuel extraction by 2050.

On Thursday night the Danish government voted in favour of the plans to cancel the country’s next North Sea oil and gas licensing round, 80 years after it first began exploring its hydrocarbon reserves.

Denmark’s 55 existing oil and gas platforms, scattered across 20 oil and gas fields, will be allowed to continue extracting fossil fuels but the milestone decision to end the hunt for new reserves in the ageing basin will guarantee an end to Denmark’s fossil fuel production.

“We are now putting a final end to the fossil era,” Denmark’s climate minister, Dan Jørgensen, said.

Helene Hagel from Greenpeace Denmark described the parliamentary vote as “a watershed moment” that will allow the country to “assert itself as a green frontrunner and inspire other countries to end our dependence on climate-wrecking fossil fuels”.

She said: “This is a huge victory for the climate movement and all the people who have pushed for many years to make it happen.”

Denmark produced the equivalent of 103,000 barrels of oil and gas a day in 2019, compared with the UK, which produced 1.7m barrels of oil equivalent last year and Norway, which produced 1.8 million barrels a day.

Its decision to set a long-term deadline on oil and gas production is likely to pile pressure on the UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, to follow suit as the country prepares to lead efforts to tackle the climate crisis at the UN climate talks in Glasgow next year.

“This is what climate leadership looks like,” Mel Evans, a senior climate campaigner for Greenpeace UK, said. “All eyes will be on the UK next year as we host crucial climate talks, so our prime minister should take note. If Johnson wants to keep up and build global momentum for the clean energy transition, he must cancel the next round of oil and gas licensing, end all future exploration and ditch the legal requirement to extract as much as possible from the North Sea basin.”

The IPPR thinktank called on the UK and Scottish governments earlier this week to phase out oil and gas production through a series of declining five-year targets, and scrap a controversial policy that calls on North Sea companies to extract as much oil and gas as they can from the ageing basin.

Deirdre Michie, the chief executive of Oil and Gas UK, told the Guardian that a hard deadline on oil and gas production – similar to the ban on the sale of new fossil fuel vehicles from 2030 – would be a “blunt instrument” that could lead to “unintended consequences” for investment and thousands of jobs.