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Norway and the UK Sign Joint Statement and Confirm Cooperation on Energy

The energy ministers of Norway and the UK signed today, 25 October 2011, a "Joint Ministerial Statement on Climate Change and Energy Security" (doc. available HERE).

The document, as indicated by its title, is not legally binding, but is a political signal by the means of a joint agreemet to cooperate further on a series of energy issues of common interest for the two countries. It also reflects the desire to develop a common vision for energy activities in the North Sea ("One North Sea"). Interestingly, the issues of the exploitation of fossil and renewable energy sources are put together in the same document. The two agenda of securing a safe but continued petroleum production and promoting low carbon consumption and generation are to be conducted in parallel, and to a certain extent in coordination. On the last point, the next meeting of the UK-Norway High Level Officials' Dialogue will take place in London first half of 2012. Bilateral statement or Memorandum of Understanding between countries in the sector of energy, renewables or climate change policy have flourished during the last decade. By adoption a joint statement, Norway and the UK are today only confirming their cooperation on these issues, defining a short-term agenda ("in the year ahead"), and strengthening the confidence of investors in the related sectors. Previously, the two countries already established:
  • in 2005, a Framework Agreement as to the development of oil and gas projects. See on that point the Guidance for Development of Trans-boundary Oil and Gas Fields with Norway (HERE);
  • in 2005, the North Sea Basin Task Force (NSBTF) (, focusing on the adoption of common principles for the regulation of CCS (later on joined by Germany and The Netherlands in 2008);
  • on 28 May 2009, the One North Sea - Joint Ministerial Statement on Climate Change and Energy Security (HERE), defining CCS, energy and renewables as areas of cooperation.
Today's joint statement should be seen as an updated version of the 2009 statement, but with a slightly amended order of topics, and a clear emphasis on petroleum:

Oil and Gas - Some figures can be mentionned here as a reminder of the tight relationship between the two countryes: in 2008, Norway exported 33% of its natural gas and 29% of its crude oil to the UK; the UK imported 72% of its gas from Norway. The signals given this week by the UK energy minister confirm that Norway will continue to be an important importer for the country. The two countries' gas transportation systems are interconnected by Langeled, the word's longest underwater pipeline. The political signal given by the two governments is formulated as follows:

"We remain fully committed to support industry in the future development of our oil and gas resources in the North Sea using the best technology available to manage emissions, protect the environment and maximise recovery of resources."

Aas far as climate chane is concerned, collaboration on carbon capture and storage (CCS) is referred too through participation to the Clean Energy Ministerial CCUS Action Group, the Carbon Sequestration Leadership Forum, and Phase II of the EU-China Near Zero Emissions Coal project.

Multilateral energy fora - The joint statement refers to a series of energy fora within which the two countries will work together. These fora include: the IEA (and the already existing bilateral cooperation); the IEF; the G20; the EU; the Energy Charter Treaty. As concerns the EU, one should note the special mention made as to the regulation of offshore drilling (see press release from EU Commission on envisaged EU safety rules for offshore oil drilling IP/10/1324 from 13.10.2010). The two countries have indeed common interests in the offshore industry and have already in place coordinated safety regulation. The reference to collaboration on renewables is extremely limited. Other initiatives exist, including with other countries, but confidence in the RES sector would have benefited from a renewed political signal. It must be noted that Norwegian interests are also well represented on the UK renewables market. As regards the EU, the two ministers agreed to:

"Collaborate in the EU/EEA, including on the ongoing work related to offshore drilling regulations in response to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and by exploring ways to collaborate to promote green growth in tje region, following up on the low carbon initiative of the UK Nordic Baltic summit."

As concerns electricity interconnections, the declarations were primarily oral, without concrete announcements. As reported in the press release from DECC: "They also agreed to continue to support efforts to develop interconnection between the UK and Norway."

  • Press release, Norwegian Ministry for Petroleum and Energy, 25.10.2011, HERE.
  • Press release, Department of Energy and Climate Change, UK, "UK and Norway sign historic energy agreement, 25.10.2011, HERE.