Ministers admit climate failure

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Five Norwegian politicians who all have served as Norway’s government minister in charge of environmental issues admit they didn’t do enough during their terms in office to reduce the threat of climate change. They include the current environmental minister, now running for re-election.

Only one former minister, Guro Fjellanger from the Liberal Party (Venstre) , thinks she “did what I could” when she served in the late 1990s. The center-right coalition government of which she was a member collapsed when it refused to approve construction of a gas power plant in western Norway, which otherwise had parliamentary support.

It’s not often that politicians admit mistakes, or political failure, but newspaper Aftenposten reports that five out of six minister who have served since the Kyoto protocol was signed 10 years ago now do. The threat of climate change has been high on the political agenda during the entire decade, but the ministers in charge haven’t managed to make enough cuts in greenhouse gas emissions either in Norway or globally, nor have they forced through significant alternative energy projects or found solutions to the debate over new offshore oil and gas exploration, especially in the fragile Arctic or around the scenic areas of Lofoten and Vesterålen.

‘Could have done more’

“It could have been possible to do more,” Siri Bjerke of the Labour Party told Aftenposten . She was environmental minister from 2000 to 2001 during an earlier government led by current Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, and says that “no government can be satisfied” with progress on the climate change front.

Børge Brende of the Conservatives, who spent three years as environmental minister during a center-right coalition from 2001 to 2004, says he “never worked so hard” as he did while minister, “but we could have done more. It’s clear that emission control is going the wrong way, both globally and in Norway.”

Erik Solheim of the Socialist Left (SV), Norway’s current environmental minister whose party is campaigning to remain as part of today’s left-center coalition, told Aftenposten that it’s been “easier” for him to make progress on the climate front that it was for his predecessors, and noted that the billions of kroner Norway is contributing to save rain forests was “a huge victory.” He added, though, that “the day I get up in the morning and say that I’ve done enough, is the day I should find something else to do.”

Asked what they see as the most important issues over the next four years, the former ministers identified a ban on oil drilling off Lofoten, urging StatoilHydro to drop its oil sands project in Canada and boosting renewable energy programs.