Surfer protest in Oslo asks Equinor to let the oil lie in the Great Australian Bight

Great Australian Bight. Paddle-out at the Opera OsloPaddle-out at the Opera in Oslo as a protest against Equinor's drilling plans in the Great Australian Bight. Photo: Ola Vatn / NTB scanpix

Many surfers paddled out into the harbour pool outside the Oslo opera house on Sunday to protest against Equinor’s oil exploration plans in the Great Australian Bight.

After similar protests have for a long time been seen offshore of beaches in Australia, where thousands of surfers have shown their opposition, the surfer protests came to Norway on Sunday.

In wet-suits and with kayaks or surfboards under their arms, surfers threw themselves into the water to highlight and make the Norwegian people aware of Equinor’s plans in The Great Australian Bight, Australian Bay.

The bay, which is about 46,000 square kilometres and slightly less than 120 miles wide from the two extremes, is known for its unique and vulnerable natural diversity.

Against the will of the people

In June 2017, Equinor became the operator for and whole owner of two exploration licenses in the Australian Bay. At the turn of the year 2020/2021, drilling for oil and gas is planned to start, but first Equinor must have their environmental plan approved by the Australian Petroleum Safety Authority Norway (NOPSEMA).

Environmental organizations in both countries, including The Great Australian Bight Alliance and Greenpeace, gathered the troops in Oslo to show what they think about the case. The message was clear: let the oil lie down under.

‘’The proposal by Equinor on oil exploration in The Great Australian Bight is something the Australian people have been fighting against for years. BP and Chevron have withdrawn and have listened to the population. We are here to make Norwegians aware, and to let them know that their own company, Equinor, is doing something against the will of the Australian people,’’ said Peter Owen of the environmental organization, The Wilderness Society (which hopes Equinor will withdraw), to NTB news.

Demands action

Leader of Greenpeace Norway, Frode Pleym, believes that Equinor’s plans are a lost cause since the resistance is so great. He is clear that environmental organisations are now demanding action.

“What the Norwegian state and Equinor are doing is contrary to what young people want to achieve through the school strikes. It is also about the fact that it is against the climate goals in the Paris Agreement. Therefore, we can not explore for more, because then we do cannot meet those goals,” Pleym states.

“The demand is action, it is about withdrawing from the Great Australian Bight. It’s not about performing an environmental impact assessment to change a few letters,” he points out.

May threaten the future

Press spokesperson for Equinor, Erik Haaland, has written that the company has noticed that there is a great deal of commitment to the cause, in an email to NTB.

“We see that there are different views in this case, both for and against. There has been a lot of commitment, and we notice that protests are being arranged. We, at the same time, see that a positive result of oil exploration can be an important financial contribution that provides greater breadth in the economy for the southern part of Australia,” Haaland writes.

Several workplaces and the general socio-economic benefits such a project can contribute to having made many local communities in Australia welcome the oil plans.

Peter Owen of the Wilderness Society believes that the economic benefits do not outweigh the consequences.

“It can certainly create jobs, but it also threatens several hundred jobs in key industries such as fishing and tourism. And no matter how many jobs it can create, it’s not sustainable as long as it threatens our future on Earth, and Austral’s rich natural diversity,” he concludes.

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The Great Australian Bight
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© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today
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