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Executive Summary for February 2nd

We review and analyze the latest news and most important developments in the Arctic, including Norway’s plan to expand its northern gas fields and North Korea’s decision to sign the Svalbard Treaty to gain access to the archipelago for scientific research and economic activities.

Published on Feb. 2, 2016 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

North Korea Sees Economic Opportunity on Svalbard

North Korea has joined the Svalbard Treaty, giving it a guarantee to carry out economic and research activities within the Arctic archipelago, reports the Independent Barents Observer.

The Svalbard Treaty recognizes the sovereignty of Norway over the archipelago, but it also gives signatories the right to carry out commercial activities in the region. It was first signed in Paris on February 9, 1920. Today, there are over 40 signatories, including the U.S., France, Germany, Russia, Japan, Denmark, the Netherlands and Poland. Norway and Russia mine coal on Svalbard.

According to the news story, the North Korean Central News Agency emphasized Svalbard’s mineral resources, including coal, and fishing grounds, in its press release. The treaty regulates the demilitarization of the islands.

Scientists from 11 nations, including China, India, South Korea, Norway, Germany, France and Britain, have research stations in Ny-Alesund, a settlement on the island of Spitsbergen in Svalbard, which holds the title of being the world’s most northerly permanent community.

Development of Norway’s Gas Fields Tied to E.U. Climate Plan

Three of Norway’s government ministers have asked the European Union for a “clear message” on its commitment to natural gas to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions, reports Bloomberg.

Companies looking to invest in the new developments in the Barents Sea will make their decisions based on Europe’s interest in adding more natural gas to its energy mix, they wrote in a letter to the E.U.’s climate action commissioner, Miguel Arias Canete, the article said.

Norway is the European Union’s second largest gas supplier, after Russia.

Only one gas field is currently in production in the Norwegian Barents Sea. Statoil ASA operates Snoehvit, sending the gas through a 143km (89 mile) pipeline to Hammerfest, on the mainland, where it is liquefied and exported.

Natural gas has been promoted as a “bridge fuel” that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions when it replaces coal in the production of electricity. It emits about half as much carbon dioxide as coal for a given unit of electricity generation.

Coal consumption in the E.U. has declined steadily since the 1990s, but it has remained relatively flat since 2010. In 2014, consumption of hard coal reached 285 Mt, 44 percent less than in 1990, according to the European statistical agency Eurostat.

The E.U. generated 32 percent of its electricity from coal in 2000, but only 26 percent of its electricity came from coal by 2014, according to The Shift Project.

Other studies have flagged the methane emissions that come with natural gas production and point out that its low price could encourage people to use more energy.

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Top image: The first tanker with a cargo of liquefied natural gas (LNG) extracted from the Snoehvit field left port at Melkoya near Hammerfest, northern Norway, on October 20, 2007. (Statoil/Allan Klo)