Norway defies US’ climate withdrawal

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Disappointment and no small portion of defiance were characterizing Norwegian officials’ reaction to US President Donald Trump’s confirmation that he was pulling the US out of the UN agreement aimed at halting climate change. Now Norway, which worked hard to help get the agreement ratified in Paris 18 months ago, will view the EU and China as the world’s most important partners in achieving international goals for reduction of carbon emissions.

Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg met with her Nordic colleagues in Bergen this week, and they were all disappointed when US President Donald Trump later announced he would pull the US out of the Paris Agreement on climate goals. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

“I am extremely disappointed that the Trump administration has decided to pull the US out of the most important climate agreement the world has agreed upon,” stated Prime Minister Erna Solberg. “We will continue climate work with unabated force.”

Solberg’s foreign minister, Børge Brende, and her minister in charge of climate and environmental issues, Vidar Helgesen, both from her own Conservative Party, was disappointed as well. “Now it’s critical that developing countries needing support to reach their climate goals get the message that such support will be available, also without the US,” Brende stated. Helgesen, who was making the rounds of radio and TV broadcasts Friday morning, said it was now “even more important” that the rest of the world “strengthen its cooperation” on climate issues. He claimed that China and the EU will now replace the US as drivers of the international climate movement.

Trump, Helgesen told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), “is on a collision course with the rest of the world, and with major portions of American business, finance circles and researchers. He presents the climate agreement as if it puts the US at a disadvantage, but it doesn’t.”

Reaction all over Europe, and around the world, to Trump’s latest bombshell was largely negative and defiant as well. European leaders were already claiming that Trump can forget any attempt to renegotiate theParis Agreement, and noted that Trump threatens to isolate his country. NRK pointed out that the US now joins Nicaragua and war-torn Syria as the only countries in the world that have not ratified the agreement.

In a written appeal to Trump, the Nordic leaders reminded Trump that “global leaders made a commitment” in Paris in December 2015 “to our children, to future generations” and “to the world” to reduce global warming. They claimed it was “of crucial importance that all parties stick to the Paris Agreement” and “strongly” urged Trump “to show global leadership” and “make the right decision.” He did not, in their opinion, and now they’re vowing to carry on without him. FACSIMILE: Statsministerens kontor

Helgesen also noted that both China, with which Norway has recently renewed diplomatic relations, and the EU have vowed to boost their own climate efforts, as have all the Nordic countries. Solberg and her fellow Nordic prime ministers had delivered a clear message to Trump on Thursday, signing it “with the very best of intentions,” to honour global leaders’ commitment to the climate before he announced his decision. They vowed to “stand by” their “promise to future generations” via the Paris Agreement.

“We urge you to show global leadership, we need the USA on the team,” Solberg wrote in a direct appeal to Trump via the medium he favours most, Twitter. Instead Trump opted for the opposite, defying not only a fast majority of world leaders but also the Pope and his own daughter, who had argued for the US to honour the agreement.

Helgesen, searching for bright spots, noted that many individual states in the US appear nonetheless keen to move forward with their own climate measures despite Trump’s pull-out. Many major companies have also decried Trump’s move and are cutting emissions on their own, even in the oil industry, while financiers don’t look likely to back climate offenders or industries like coal. The use of solar energy and wind power is also growing in the US and “no one can fight technological change,” Helgesen told NRK, “not Trump either.”

Even Norway’s state oil company Statoil was among international firms urging Trump to remain loyal to the Paris Agreement. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported last month how Statoil was among companies appealing in writing to The White House to get Trump to change his course.

This photo of Solberg and her Nordic colleagues got a lot of international exposure this week amidst claims they were responding to a photo of Trump clutching a globe while in Saudi Arabia the week before. They were not. Solberg also used the so-called “sustainability football” they’re all clutching during a meeting in Beijing with Chinese President Xi Yinping in April, and told Norwegian media the photo with her Nordic colleagues was planned weeks before Trump posed with the globe. From left: Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven, Danish Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen, Solberg on Norway, Finland’s Prime Minister Juha Sipilä and Iceland’s Prime Minister Bjarni Benediktsson. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

Statoil officials met with Trump’s international climate and energy adviser George David Banks and wrote a letter in which Statoil’s climate director Bjørn Otto Sverdrup stated that “the global energy system is in transition towards a low-carbon future.” The Paris Agreement was needed, Statoil argued, to provide the oil industry with a “stable and practical framework” for making long-term and large-scale investments.

Statoil also noted that it has invested more than USD 30 billion in the US and has major plans for the future. Despite also having Trump’s Secretary of State and former CEO of ExxonMobil Rex Tillerson on their side as well, Statoil’s pleas fell on deaf ears. Trump and his staff members who opposed the Paris Agreement were uncomfortable with the US’ own commitments on emissions cuts. Trump has called them “unfair,” and that reducing emissions by up to 28 percent by 2025, compared to 2005 levels, will hurt US jobs. Trump remarked Thursday that he was more concerned with jobs in Pittsburgh than staying loyal to the pact hammered out in Paris.

Trump has also hailed coal, among the largest source of carbon emissions, and promised that the US coal industry will make a comeback and put miners back to work. Many economists and businesses, Statoil included, doubt that’s possible, stressing that coal can’t compete with new technology that, for example, has made it possible to extract shale oil and gas as energy sources. Statoil has been a big player in the shale gas industry in the US, which has also posed competitive issues for Norway’s own offshore gas industry.

Some analysts and academics have said that Trump’s pull-out provides the rest of the world with a golden opportunity to forge ahead on climate programs because now the US will lose its veto right. Newspaper Aftenposten reported on Thursday that climate researcher Luke Kemp of the Australian National University in Canberra thinks Trump’s decision can be “the best thing that can happen for the climate campaign” because the US otherwise could have “done more damage” internally than externally.

Norwegian climate minister Helgesen disagreed. “It would have been an advantage to have them (US officials) around the table,” Helgesen told NRK. Now the world will move forward without the US as a key leader.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund