MP: ‘We’re all hypocritical’ about coal

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A veteran Member of Parliament who’s also the finance policy spokesman for the ruling Conservatives admitted on national radio Thursday that his party is just as “hypocritical” as all the others, after they agreed to stop investing state oil revenues in coal operations abroad while supporting Norway’s own coal operations on Svalbard in the environmentally sensitive Arctic.

Svein Flåtten of the Conservatives and their spokesman on business policy, Gunnar Gundersen, were among those earlier accusing the Labour Party, the Center Party and others of what the Norwegians call dobbeltmoral (hypocrisy), because Labour backed the state-owned coal mining on Svalbard while also calling for Norway’s oil fund to dump its investments in coal companies abroad. Labour had backed the oil fund’s coal investments while it sat with government power for eight years, from 2005 to 2013, but changed its mind when it became part of the opposition in Parliament.

‘Other reasons’ for coal on Svalbard
Now the Conservatives also have backed both the controversial coal mining on Svalbard and a decision Wednesday night to, as expected, demand that the oil fund sell its stock in companies where coal contributes to more than 30 percent of revenues and operations.

Asked whether that means the Conservatives are now hypocritical, too, for dumping coal investments abroad while allowing coal mining on Svalbard because of the jobs it creates, Flåtten said “it can be seen in that way, that now we’re hypocritical, all of us.”

Flåtten, appearing along with the Christian Democrats’ Hans Olav Syversen on NRK’s popular live daily political radio debate Politisk kvarter, was quick to stress that the support for coal on Svalbard “has other reasons, that we want to preserve the population on Svalbard. With the international situation we have now, I think that’s more important than ever.” He was referring to the recent rise in tensions with Russia, and Russia’s new efforts to re-establish its presence in the Arctic.

“Nonetheless, if you look at coal on its own, we need to move forward very carefully,” Flåtten said.

The Conservatives have earlier maintained that it would be “unfortunate” to use the oil fund as an instrument for climate policy. He doesn’t think, though, that pulling it out of coal investments is at odds with that, calling the decision instead “a roadmap for the government.” He also claimed that coal investments are now full of financial risk, as well as climate risk.

Cake from the environmentalists
Environmental organizations were delighted, whatever the politicians’ reasoning might be, with WWF, Greenpeace and Framtiden i våre hender (The future in our hands) even turning up with cake for them after the Parliament’s finance committee voted.

Syversen said there were “strong ethical reasons” for pulling the oil fund out of coal. They apparently simply don’t apply on Svalbard. “This is a great victory,” declared Torstein Tvedt Solberg of Labour, “both for the climate and not least that we have drafted a measure that everyone supports.” Labour, meanwhile, has lobbied hard to maintain the Svalbard coal mines and support them with another half-billion kroner in the state budget to keep them open and operating.

The final vote on instructing the oil fund not to invest in coal mining companies or companies that generate power from coal will be taken in Parliament on June 5.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund