Another government quarrel erupts

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Members of Norway’s left-center government coalition are quarreling again, with cabinet minister Kristin Halvorsen now complaining about her government colleague, Oil & Energy Minister Ola Borten Moe, on Facebook. Differences over environmental policies are at the root of the conflict, and opposition leaders want Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg to sort things out.

Kristin Halvorsen, leader of the embattled Socialist Left party (SV), claims the party won't give up its fight for emissions cuts. She plans to resign as leader, though, next spring. PHOTO: SV

Environmentalists see Stoltenberg, though, as part of the problem for failing to rein in Moe, who continues to provoke those worried about climate change with his dogged support for oil and gas. He’s been reprimanded by the leader of his own party, the small Center Party, but Halvorsen’s even-smaller Socialist Left party (SV) is far from satisfied.

This week, Moe provoked Halvorsen and environmentalists yet again, when he told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) that he would refuse to insist on emissions cuts from Norwegian oil and gas operations. That’s where SV and Moe’s party clearly disagree even though they share government power. SV wants to cut emissions at home, but Moe doesn’t want to put the brakes on Norway’s lucrative, and, as he sees it, necessary oil and gas production.

“The weather is getting wilder, there’s pessimism going into the (UN) cimate meeting in Durban, the government keeps working on a new climate report and Borten Moe has shown what he intends to contribute in today’s DN,” Halvorsen lamented on Facebook. “It’s just as well that the environmental movement sees what we have to deal with for the time being.”

The leaders of all three government parties (from left, Liv Signe Navarsete of the Center Party, Kristin Halvorsen of SV and Jens Stoltenberg of Labour) claim to be environmentally protective, yet Norway continues to top global rankings with its carbon emissions. PHOTO: SV

She indicated that SV would keep struggling to get the Center Party and Labour to come around to SV’s points of view, and accept more measures to cut emissions. Both the Center Party and Labour have been accused of hypocrisy, for promoting an environmentally friendly profile while failing to make cuts at home for fear of hurting Norwegian industry and jobs.

Environmental conflicts have faced the government coalition since it first took power in 2005. SV, for example, is firmly against oil exploration and drilling off the popular tourism and fishing areas of Lofoten and Vesterålen, worries about more oil activity in sensitive Arctic areas, and wants to protect wolves and insist on carbon capture systems at oil and gas power plants.

Moe’s unceasing manner of purporting to speak for the entire government, even before its climate report (long delayed because of the internal conflict)  is released, has seriously irritated government colleagues. Opposition politicians claim to be irritated as well, but more over the coalition’s quarreling than the issues themselves. Many on the conservative side of parliament likely support Moe’s outlook, and are seizing the opportunity to poke fingers at Halvorsen and highlight a lack of government unity.

“It’s time for Stoltenberg to show some leadership and contribute towards clarifying what Norway’s energy and environmental policies really are,” Nikolai Astrup of the Conservative Party told DN. “A government can only have one opinion.”

Trine Skei Grande, leader of the Liberal Party, is more inclined to side with SV’s views on environmental issues but she expressed irritation as well.

“Kristin Halvorsen can’t claim that she’s the one struggling with Borten Moe,” Trine Skei Grande, leader of the Liberal Party, told DN on Friday. “It’s us who are struggling with a government that’s constantly attacking climate measures, also in the oil sector.”

Stoltenberg declined comment other than to claim that Norway’s role as an oil and gas producer will be in line with the government’s ambition to be a leader in environmental and climate policies.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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