Is Norway a climate hypocrite?

In many ways, Norway is very green. About 95% of its electricity comes from hydropower, and almost all the rest from other renewable sources such as heat and wind.

It has the highest number of electric vehicles in the world: in September, 77.5% of new vehicles sold were electric. The capital of Oslo has also been redesigned to remove parking lots and to encourage pedestrian and bicycle riding. Norway was one of the first countries to import carbon emissions, which is expected to raise £ 500m by 2021.

It was also the first world economy to accept Paris agreement its target of lowering global temperatures below 2 ° C before industrialization, and, in 2016, its parliament agreed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2030. At the same time, surprisingly, Norway benefits from to large oil and gas companies.

How big is it exactly?

Big, especially compared to its 5.4 million people only. Norway is the second largest oil and gas producer in Europe, behind Russia alone, producing 4 million “barrels of oil” per day. It supplies about one-fourth of the gas that the EU exports. These companies are the largest producers in the country, accounting for about 14% of its GDP and 40% of its exports. It employs about 200,000 people (over 5% of the total working population).

The Norwegian national fund, which was created 30 years ago for oil profits in the North Sea, is now the largest in the world: it is worth $ 1.4trn, and accounts for about 1.4% of every listed company in the world. According to Norway, Time magazine reported, “the world’s largest oil-dependent democracy”.

Why is this in the news now?

For some reason, in this year’s general election, the issue came to a head: small parties on the left such as the Green Party demanded an immediate suspension of oil and gas exploration. And probably because of Cop26 – where Norway won the first “Fossil of the Day” award from the Climate Action Network.

The group complained that the Norwegian government “prefers to play the weather specialist” while behind closed doors is the “joy of leftover oil”; that it promotes the oil and gas business, in favor of Arctic drilling; and that it has always failed to achieve its seasonal goals. In the current context, it will reduce carbon emissions, in particular, by only 21% from 1990 levels by 2030.

How do they justify themselves?

Traditionally, Norway has been dealing with climate and oil policies differently. This was made easier since, under the auspices of the Paris Agreement, gas is calculated where the burning oil ends, not where it is removed. As a result, even if oil and gas exported from Norway last year would emit about 450 million tons of carbon dioxide when burned (about seven to seven times the amount of carbon dioxide), they could still export air at this rate and still reduce it. his breath. at zero.

Norway’s two main political parties, Labor and Conservatives, all feel that it could be detrimental to the global environment if Norway stopped producing oil and gas.

How does this principle apply?

Drilling in Norway is said to be the cleanest in the world. If this is stopped, he says, global demand will not be the same but Norwegian refineries and gas can be replaced by pollutants that contain high levels of carbon dioxide. Defending the companies, Labor Minister Jonas Gahr Støre said the immediate cessation of Norwegian hydrocarbon production would “stop the industrialization that is needed” if Europe achieves its green targets.

As the world cuts off coal and oil to reduce emissions it must rely heavily on gas; and geopolitically, without Norway, Europe would have grown increasingly dependent on Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Is the oil business struggling in Norway?

He is very much criticized. In Norwegian media, it is often referred to as oljeskam: “fat shame”, an idea derived from the Swedish notion of “fleeing shame”. Many Norwegians, especially young people, want to give up their country of oil. Campaigners have filed lawsuits against the government for failing to reduce investigations.

The Norwegian people are protesting against climate changeThe Norwegian people are protesting against climate change

However, elections show that more than half of the Norwegian population is still supporting the project. Oil, in turn, has made the country one of the richest countries in the world (with 11th-highest global GDP per capita according to the World Bank). This year, the government expects to raise more than $ 20bn from oil, levies and taxes. Much of this goes into the national budget, supporting the best government. Everything else will go into the treasury of the kingdom, on a rainy day.

What does the future hold?

After the initial decline of this century, Norway has been expanding its oil production. In 2019, approximately 57 light wells were drilled, and 83 new production certificates were issued. The new central government on the left will try to expand the oil and gas industry while trying to reduce carbon emissions, for example, by installing electricity on platforms.

It also seeks to use oil bills to “pay for green changes”, particularly in the capture and storage of carbon, and blue hydrogen (hydrogen produced from ground oil when it absorbs carbon dioxide). All of these technologies have great potential, but none are ready to be used on a large scale.

The rest of the world is facing a “huge production gap”: differences between governments that want to produce oil, and the standards needed to keep global temperatures below 2 ° C. And many countries have not yet met their green and real ambitions. However, Norway faces this challenge with great difficulty.

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