Norway's own emissions under fire

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More than 100 officials from Norway will be at the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen this week and next, with ambitious goals for cutting carbon emissions and trying to halt climate change. Meanwhile, Norway’s own emission levels have risen, not declined, over the past 20 years, and a unified opposition in Parliament thinks the Norwegian government needs to boost its own environmental ambitions at home.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Monday morning that all opposition parties in Parliament have signed a letter to the government’s Oil and Energy Minister Terje Riis-Johansen, in which they want to know what concrete measures are being taken at home in Norway to help halt climate change.

“We’re doing this because we see that the government has huge ambitions when they travel to Copenhagen, but at home, they skirt around many fronts that are among the most important,” Ketil Solvik-Olsen of the Progress Party told NRK.

The Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet, Frp) , Norway’s most conservative, has been among those questioning climate change over the years, but now it’s joining the Liberal Party (Venstre) , the Conservatives (Høyre) and the Christian Democrats (Kristelig Folkepartiet) in demanding that the Labour Party-led government coalition clarify how it intends to reduce emissions, boost use of renewable energy and put into practice at home many of the measures it urges other countries to do elsewhere.Venstre leader Trine Skei Grande told NRK that the government is “very good” at “buying itself free” overseas (by investing in rain forests and buying climate quotas) but not good at making cuts at home. The government recently decided to remove tax exemptions from biodiesel, for example, and NRK reports that carbon emissions are up 8 percent since 1990.

The letter sent by Grande and her colleagues questions how Norway will implement EU directives on use of renewable energy sources.

Oil and Energy Minister Johansen rejected claims that the government isn’t doing enough at home. He told NRK that Norway is “more energy efficient now than ever before.” He avoided directly addressing the issue of Norway’s own carbon emissions, but Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg has promised major cuts as home as well as those his negotiators will be lobbying for abroad.

Norway will have 125 negotiators, observers and advisers in Copenhagen during the course of the 11-day conference, which wraps up next Friday. Norway’s negotiating team is led by Hanne Bjurstrøm, who’s been working on climate issues for years and will take over as Norway’s new Labour Minister after New Year. Also on hand in Copenhagen will be Norway’s minister for the environment and foreign aid, Erik Solheim (see related story) .