More climate cuts sought at home

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Two of the three parties making up Norway’s government coalition are demanding that more emissions cuts be made at home, after the Kyoto agreement on cuts was extended at the UN climate conference in Durban. They’re not satisfied with Norway’s tendency to rather offer funds for cuts elsewhere in the world.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg (left) was one of the few government leaders who traveled to Durban for the climate conference. At right, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan. PHOTO: Statsministerenskontor

As a major oil and gas producer, Norway’s carbon emissions are much higher on a per capita basis than most other countries’. The environmental group Friends of the Earth claimed during the meeting in Durban that Norway doesn’t deserve the description it often gets as an active international player against climate change.

Rising emissions, more oil and gas exploration and extraction on its continental shelf, state oil company Statoil’s investment in the oil sands industry in Canada and even pension fund investments in companies that destroy rain forests prompted Friends of the Earth to claim that Norway is not a real leader in efforts to combat climate change and rather is guilty of hypocrisy. “Countries like Norway can’t act with one voice internationally and at the same time continue their anti-climate politics in their own country,” Nnimmo Bassey, leader of Friends of the Earth, told newspaper Aftenposten.

The Socialist Left party (SV) and the Center Party (Sp), both of which are part of the government coalition with much-larger Labour, seem to agree, even though Sp’s own politician in charge of oil and energy in Norway, cabinet minister Ola Borten Moe, is pursuing more oil exploration and extraction. His insistence that the world will continue to need fossil fuels has attracted widespread criticism among environmentalists.

‘Long way to go’
SV’s deputy leader, Audun Lysbakken, who also serves as a government minister, is now challenging Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and his Labour party to back more measures that can cut Norwegian emissions. Stoltenberg has promised that cuts will be made in Norway, but that’s not popular with his industrial and labour constituency.

“Despite some progress in the last round in Durban, there’s a long way to go towards a new international climate treaty,” Lysbakken told Aftenposten. “It seems that powerful new measures in rich countries like Norway  are critical for achieving a new agreement.”

Lysbakken won support from Erling Sande of Sp, who leads the energy and environment committee in parliament.”We have to do a lot here at home,” Sande said.

Such statements are warmly received by environmentalists like Lars Haltbrekken of Friends of the Earth in Norway, who said the government’s long-awaited position statement on climate issues will be even more important.

Haltbrekken and Stoltenberg himself were also relieved that a so-called “green fund” was set up to help finance emissions cuts, but Stoltenberg cautioned that it’s not worth much without money in it. He’s been charged by the UN with raising finance, and admitted that not many countries have made room in their already tight budgets for fund contributions.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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