Arctic Petroleum and the 2°C Goal: A Case for Accountability for Fossil-Fuel Supply

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The Arctic is both a place disproportionately affected by climate change and a place that has been, and continues to be, subject to large-scale oil-and-gas development. Production and subsequent combustion of these resources would compromise the treaty-established target of keeping global warming ‘well below’ 2°C. The global regulatory efforts on climate change are centred on greenhouse gas emissions from fossil-fuel consumption, almost ignoring the supply side. In the absence of universal and strict emission-reduction targets, petroleum exports and carbon leakage jeopardize the effectiveness of the climate change regime. Through the examination of treaties and national practice, this paper argues for the establishment of accountability for the production of Arctic petroleum in light of climate change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)282-307
Number of pages26
JournalClimate Law
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 18 Nov 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
There is growing support for supply-side measures in general. Over 500 environmental ngo s from 76 countries signed the 2017 Lofoten Declaration calling for ‘the wealthy fossil fuel producers to lead in putting an end to fossil fuel development and to manage the decline of existing production.’ This position is supported by some politicians and industry representatives. In the last two years of the Obama Administration, for example, much attention was focused on climate change. In discussing the controversial Keystone XL Pipeline project, the US president said: ‘if we’re going to prevent large parts of this Earth from becoming not only inhospitable but uninhabitable in our lifetimes, we’re going to have to keep some fossil fuels in the ground rather than burn them and release more dangerous pollution into the sky.’ A 2016 report by the French energy company Total stressed that ‘the 2°C scenario highlights that a part of the world’s fossil fuel resources cannot be developed.’ The World Bank is no longer financing oil-and-gas projects, on climate change grounds. For the Arctic context specifically, Sjåfjell and Halvorssen examined the climatic implications of new oil development in Norway, arguing that investing in oil-and-gas operations and carbon-intensive infrastructure over the next thirty years in the Arctic ‘is clearly against the object and purpose of the unfccc and the Paris Agreement, when the international community should be phasing out fossil fuel use and moving toward renewable energy across the globe.’

Publisher Copyright:
© Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, 2020.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Russia
  • Arctic
  • governance
  • north
  • sanctions
  • oil and gas
  • fossil fuels
  • supply side
  • Arctic Ocean
  • Arctic petroleum production
  • Arctic governance
  • international environmental law
  • Greenpeace v. Norway case
  • Environmental impact assessment
  • International environmental law
  • Greenpeace v. Norway case (People v. Arctic Oil case, Norwegian Court of Appeal, 2020)
  • Fossil fuels
  • Supply side


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