Monday, August 8

Norway votes, but is Europe’s biggest oil giant ready to go green? | Norway


Norway will go to the polls on Monday in parliamentary elections that are forcing Western Europe’s largest oil and gas producer to confront its environmental contradictions.

Climate issues have dominated the campaign since August, when the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued its harshest warning yet that global warming is dangerously close to spiraling out of control.

The report gave an instant boost to parties calling for a halt to drilling: The country’s Green Party, which wants to immediately halt oil and gas exploration, and produce no more after 2035, saw membership increase by nearly a year. third.

“The Net Zero report from the International Energy Agency in May had already made it clear that there was no place for oil and gas, so the IPCC report really nailed it,” said Arild Hermstad, deputy leader of the Green. “This is really the climate choice.”

But while polls predict that the center-left opposition will topple the conservative-led coalition that has ruled Norway for eight years, the fate of the industry that has made Norway one of the most prosperous nations in Europe is far from being. sealed.

The country may be one of the main proponents of green energy, but fossil fuels still account for 40% of its exports. The oil and gas industry employs more than 200,000 people, roughly 7% of the total workforce, and through it the country has created the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund, worth £ 1 trillion.

An election poster on a street in Oslo is surrounded by bicycles and shows the Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg.
An election poster in Oslo shows Norway’s Prime Minister Erna Solberg. Photograph: Ali Zare / AP

Pressure is mounting on Norway to switch to emulating neighboring Denmark, which is ending fossil fuel exploration and aims to halt all production by 2050.

TO Report of the UN human rights council on Norway last year he was explicit, calling on the country to “ban further fossil fuel exploration, reject further expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure and develop a just transition strategy for workers and communities.”

But the message is hard to sell. “It will be a huge job to get Norway out of the oil industry,” Hermstad said. “People worry about their work, about their standard of living. As long as conservatives guarantee that oil work will continue, those calling for an end to drilling appear to be the threat. “

Norway’s main center-right and center-left parties, the Conservatives and the Labor opposition, agree that production should continue after 2050, arguing that the green transition will take time and oil revenues can help finance it. .

Ruining Norway’s economy won’t help, they argue, and if Norway stops producing, other countries will join the gap. “In fact, they argue that because we produce cleanly, it will be better for the environment if Norway continues,” Hermstad said. “It’s not true. But people like to hear it.”

Still, the Greens could find themselves in government: Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s right-wing coalition is predicted to lose, but the left’s expected margin of victory is uncertain, and a Labor-led coalition may need the support. of one or more smaller parties. to reach a majority of 85 seats.

Labor, led by former Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, is expected to be the largest party with 46 projected MPs, but it will also lose seats, leaving its preferred coalition, with the Center party and the Socialist Left Social Democratic party with the smallest possible majority.

That could see the Greens, in the eight-seat target, or the far-left Red party enter government, which could give environmentalists crucial influence in a left-wing coalition that would be deeply divided over fossil fuel policy. .

Labor has said they will not form a coalition with any party demanding a halt to all exploration or production. But his key allies disagree on the issue, with the Center party supporting continued exploration and the Socialist Left opposing it. Some kind of deal, the Greens hope, will have to be negotiated.

Much will depend on whether the smaller parties exceed Norway’s so-called vote-leveling threshold, which rewards parties that get more than 4% of the vote nationwide, but not many seats altogether.

But it will be difficult for Norway to give up its addiction to oil and gas. Hermstad said: “In a debate last week, I asked the Conservative candidate when would be his preferred date to finish production. He said, ‘In about 300 years.’


www.theguardian.com

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