Jens Stoltenberg, Norway’s popular former prime minister, has repeatedly claimed that he had no other plans than to stay on as leader of the opposition in Parliament after losing government power in the last election. On Monday, though, he took on an extra job when he said it was “impossible” to turn down a request to serve as a special UN envoy for climate issues.
Stoltenberg was named to the new top international post along with John Kufuor, former president of Ghana, by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Both Stoltenberg and Kufuor will be charged with helping the UN secretary general engage heads of state and government around the world “in order to mobilize political will and action, and raise ambition in advance of the 2014 Climate Summit” that the UN will host in New York in September.
The envoy post has a limited duration, and Stoltenberg’s Labour Party announced that he will continue to serve as leader of party’s group of elected officials in Parliament. Stoltenberg thus will remain as opposition leader, but probably with regular absence as he carries out his new UN duties.
Ban is calling for “more robust action” on measures to reverse climate change. After yet another disappointing meeting on climate change among world leaders this past fall, the UN secretary general tapped Stoltenberg and Kufuor to help speed up the process. He called the summit in September “an important milestone” for mobilizing political commitment to a new global climate pact by 2015 as well as “spurring action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build climate-resilient communities.”
Stoltenberg and Kufuor will “assist the secretary general in his consultations” with world leaders and provide “strategic advice,” according to a UN press release. Stoltenberg already has been working with Ban Ki-moon on climate change issues and helped lead UN efforts to finance climate change measures. Stoltenberg also has led efforts to stop deforestation, with Norway providing major funding to save rain forests.
Norway’s own emissions remain high
Stoltenberg also has been criticized, though, for failing to cut Norway’s own high emissions from its oil and gas industry, and he also failed to follow though on his so-called “moon landing” project – a carbon capture project at Statoil’s Mongstad refinery that remains stalled.
He told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Monday that his new role in prodding other nations and Norway as well to cut emissions is “absolutely one of our time’s most important jobs. It was impossible for me to turn it down.”
It has long been speculated that Stoltenberg would move on to a top international job after eight years as prime minister in Norway. He has held a high international profile on climate issues, despite Norway’s own ongoing emissions, and said he was looking forward to tackle new responsibilities.
“Emissions are growing and negotiations are standing still,” Stoltenberg told NRK. “Our job will be to make that message clear, and contribute to action both nationally and internationally that can bring down emissions.”