Denmark should end oil and gas hunt, says government adviser

FILE PHOTO - Denmark's Climate and Energy Minister Dan Jorgensen speaks during an interview in Copenhagen, Denmark August 16, 2019. REUTERS/Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Denmark should end all future oil and gas exploration in the North Sea, an independent adviser to the government said on Thursday, saying it would hurt Denmark’s ambition as a front-runner in the fight against climate change.

Denmark has set one of the most ambitious climate change targets in the world and the adviser’s recommendation is crucial to the government’s pending decision on whether to proceed with a previously announced North Sea oil and gas tender.

“The credibility of Denmark as a pioneer (in climate change) can quickly erode if we continue to expand our oil and gas activities,” the Danish Council on Climate Change said in a report commissioned by the government.

The government aims to give its decision in the autumn but declined to say whether it would follow the council’s advice, citing a need to weigh concerns against the potential economic losses and security of supply.

“It is a complex balancing act and if Denmark is to take international climate leadership, then we must show that the green transition can go hand in hand with financial responsibility,” said climate and energy minister Dan Jorgensen.

Denmark is broadly seen as a pioneer on climate change, with many of its peers closely following what the small Nordic state is doing to achieve its targets.

“A Danish halt for further exploration in the North Sea could send a strong signal in international climate politics and may even encourage other countries to follow suit,” the council said.

Denmark produced about 30.8 million barrels of oil and a little more than 3 billion cubic metres of gas in 2019. It is the second-biggest oil producer in the European Union behind Britain but its output remains dwarfed by neighboring Norway.

The Danish Energy Agency (DEA) said in February that it had received applications from four companies - Ardent Oil, Lundin LUPE.ST, MOL MOLB.BU and Total TOTF.PA - in the so-called eighth licensing round.

Reporting by Andreas Mortensen, Jacob Gronholt-Pedersen and Stine Jacobsen; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and David Goodman