Norway has had a large delegation at this week’s UN Climate Conference in Warsaw, but the Parliament’s most high-profile environmental champion decided to stay home and on Thursday, several Norwegian climate activists joined nearly 500 others in walking out in protest. They’re frustrated over a lack of progress on measures to reverse climate change.
“The world’s leaders can’t manage to give us what the world needs, therefore we’re leaving in protest,” read a joint statement from Norwegian environmental groups including Natur og Ungdom, Naturvernforbundet (Friends of the Earth), WWF Norge and Regnskogfondet (The Rain Forest Fund).
Eight Members of Parliament from nearly all parties represented in Norway’s national assembly, meanwhile, had made the trip to Warsaw, with MPs like Ola Elvestuen of the Liberal Party (Venstre), who heads the parliament’s energy and environment committee, saying he thought it was “an important conference.” Elvestuen told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) that he thought it also was important that so many from his committee came along.
Rasmus Hansson, the lone MP representing the Greens Party (Miljøpartiet De Grønne) for the first time, clearly disagreed. He’s been at the UN climate talks before and had few expectations that this week’s meeting would achieve any notable results. “I know that it’s limited what you can get out of it,” Hansson told DN. He opted to stay in Oslo to keep learning the ropes of how parliament functions, especially the disciplinary committee on which he also sits. “This is an investment to become fully operative,” he said.
Norway’s new government minister in charge of environmental issues, Tine Sundtoft, was making her international debut at the meeting in Warsaw and served as “ice breaker” on Wednesday when she could announce that Norway’s new government would maintain its financial commitments to help save the world’s rain forests. She told other delegates that her government would also contribute “in the range of 100 million US dollars” through the World Bank’s carbon fund.
Sundtoft was also asked to lead negotiations on long-term financing for climate change, an issue that can pit wealthy countries against poorer ones. Norway has long been a generous financial contributor towards international efforts to reverse climate change, but also meets criticism because of its oil industry that makes Norway itself a major emitter of carbon and other pollutants. Opposition politicians who held power for the past eight years and didn’t manage to rein in Statoil’s controversial tar sands involvement in Canada, for example, or complete an ambitious carbon-capture project at Statoil’s Mongstad terminal and refinery complex are now pressuring the new government to have “more ambitious” climate goals. One of the former government parties known for nurturing an environmentally conscious effort, the Center Party, however, didn’t make the trip to Warsaw.
Lars Haltbrekken of Naturvernforbundet (Friends of the Earth), among those walking out in protest on Thursday, seemed clearly disgusted. He said that even the emissions cuts that were promised at an earlier climate meeting in Copenhagen were weakened .
“We risk having a climate summit that will have a worse result at the end than in the beginning,” Haltbrekken told state broadcaster NRK. “This is a serious warning to world leaders and environmental ministers that the future of the planet is at risk.”