Minister optimistic about climate talks

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Tine Sundtoft, Norway’s often-criticized minister for the environment, insists she’ll be heading to the UN’s climate talks in Paris with plenty of funding and measures to help halt climate change. She says she can’t understand why many environmental organizations think otherwise.

Environment Minister Tine Sundtoft, shown here in the mountains of Dovre, claims she's optimistic as she prepares to head for UN climate talks in Paris, and that no government has ever allocated so much money for climate and environmental programs. PHOTO: Klima- og miljødepartementet

Environment Minister Tine Sundtoft, shown here in the mountains of Dovre, claims she’s optimistic as she prepares to head for UN climate talks in Paris, and that no government has ever allocated so much money for climate and environmental programs. PHOTO: Klima- og miljødepartementet

Sundtoft has rejected much of the criticism hurled at her and Norway’s Conservatives-led government coalition since their state budget for next year was presented last week. Environmental activists like Nina Jensen of WWF claimed the budget was “one of the worst” she’d ever seen in terms of funding for climate measures.

“How is it possible to see red when the state budget for 2016 is the greenest budget ever put forward?” Sundtoft wondered in a recent interview with newspaper Dagsavisen. “There’s never been such an offensive climate budget.”

She pointed to an increase of NOK 14.25 billion (USD 1.75 billion) in allocations to a fund for climate, renewable energy and energy initiatives. She noted how NOK 134.5 billion was allocated for environmental technology measures for business, bringing the total amount up to NOK 464.5 billion.

‘Green shift definitely underway’
Funding for biogas programs was doubled, to NOK 20 million, and another NOK 40 million was earmarked for the maritime industry, to prod along its own so-called  “green shift.” NOK 110 million was provided to continue developments in handling carbon emissions and NOK 40 million was provided for more research into renewable energy.

“We have never allocated so much money for climate and the environment as we have proposed for 2016,” Sundtoft told Dagsavisen. She claimed the state budget for next year “definitely” gets Norway’s own “green shift” underway, not least when taking into consideration the money set aside, for example, to improve Norway’s railway system and public transportation.

She also said she can travel to Paris with statistics showing lower emissions from the transport sector, more environmentally friendly maritime transport, a strengthening of Norway’s role as a producer of renewable energy and development of technology to reduce industrial emission. Norway’s oil industry is the country’s biggest producer of emissions, but even it is now in a downturn because of lower oil prices, and efforts are underway to make Norway’s economy less reliant on its oil and gas sector.

Sundtoft, clearly stung by all the harsh criticism last week, cautioned environmentalists against being so pessimistic when climate and enviornmental policies are discussed. “I don’t think the debate is well-served with that,” she said.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund