Climate talks start up again

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UPDATED: Intense pressure from environmental, labour and business leaders and even bishops in the state church has prompted politicians to re-start talks on climate measures meant to cut emissions in Norway. The government and opposition parties had blamed each other when negotiations for a broad-based pact in parliament broke down just before the weekend.

Emissions from plants like this one at Mongstad need to be reduced if Norway is to meet its climate goals. PHOTO: Statoil/Helge Hansen

At issue is what Norway needs to do to reduce emissions both offshore and onshore. Norway’s oil and gas industry combined with a small population have long left the country in an unfavourable position regarding emissions per capita, and political leaders have thus sent billions of kroner overseas to fund emission cuts elsewhere.

Now they need to find ways to cut emissions at home as well and it hasn’t been easy. Parties on the left advocate radical measures to discourage driving, those in the center promote funding to preserve Norway’s forests, Labour wants to make sure emissions cuts don’t threaten jobs, and parties on the right accuse the government of not promoting enough renewable energy programs and failing to make carbon capture a reality. They also want more funding for climate research.

The goal has been to take two-thirds of the emissions cuts needed in Norway. A top politician for the Conservatives told newspaper Aftenposten after talks broke down that he doesn’t think that’s possible. But both the Conservatives, other opposition parties in Parliament and the government parties will try again, with Labour claiming it has taken the initiative for new talks. Plans for new talks emerged, however, after more than 70 organizations and private persons demanded they resume.

Controversy around the re-started talks also swirled on Wednesday after it became clear that the government parties excluded the opposition Progress Party from participating. The Progress Party, better known for questioning climate change than trying to stop it, lately has shown more concern for the issue and cooperated well with the other opposition parties in parliament. As a commentator for newspaper Dagens Næringsliv pointed out, though, the last thing the left-center government wants to do is contribute to the Progress Party’s new, more climate-oriented image. So they invited only the parties that took part in climate talks four years ago, when the Progress Party didn’t participate.

Progress Party leaders were disappointed, but are used to being shoved out in the cold. This time, though, there was rumbling that the other opposition parties should have rallied to the Progress Party’s support, so the drama continued.

The government put forward its own proposal on climate measures last week. The issue is up for a vote in parliament before the summer holidays.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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