Norway needs to ‘shut down rigs’

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A new round of appeals to stop climate change have gone out this week, and they all call on Norway to stop being one of the world’s highest producers of carbon emissions per capita. The only way to do that, claim those making the appeals, is to dramatically scale down the size of Norway’s oil and gas industry.

The Greenpeace ship Esperanza moored exactly where Statoil planned to start drilling on Thursday night. It refused to move on Friday despite the Norwegian government declaring the area a "security zone." Greenpeace argued the declaration was invalid because the government hadn't followed the notification requirements for setting up such a zone. PHOTO: Greenpeace

The Greenpeace ship “Esperanza” tried to stop the huge drilling rig that Statoil chartered for more oil and gas exploration in the Arctic earlier this year, but didn’t manage. New calls are going out for a dramatic reduction in oil and gas activity if Norway is to cut its own carbon emissions. PHOTO: Greenpeace

Norway must show new leadership in the international climate negotiations by agreeing to a full stop of Norwegian oil and gas production as quickly as possible, claimed environmental group Naturvernforbund (Friends of the Earth) at a political debate in Arendal this week. Any shutdown of oil rigs is not likely, but the group’s leader, Lars Haltbrekken, claims there’s no avoiding it if Norway is to get serious about cutting its own carbon emissions at home.

Norwegian politicians, not least former Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, have spent years traveling the globe and taking part in high-level meetings to cut carbon emissions. Most of the work, however, has been aimed at financing emissions cuts in other countries. Meanwhile, Norway’s small population of just over 5 million leaves it among the top polluters per capita in the world because of its oil industry. The only way to rid Norway of the dubious distinction is to at least cut back on oil and gas production.

“That would grab attention internationally, and help set the agenda during next year’s big climate summit ‘Paris 2015.'” Haltbrekken told Norway’s minister for the environment, Tine Sundtoft.

Economic consequences
Haltbrekken’s proposal is not new and has been demanded by both his organization and others for years. Norway’s economy is based on the oil industry that got underway in 1969, though, so any major reduction in oil and gas activity would have severe economic consequences for the country. Environmentalists and not least the Greens Party (Miljøpartiet de Grønne, which won a seat in Parliament last year for the first time) counter that revenues could be recouped through development of renewable energy and other more climate-friendly businesses.

They were joined on Tuesday by the humanitarian aid organization Kirkens Nødhjelp, which also claimed in its own new climate report that Norway must increase its national and international climate efforts considerably. “We pollute much more than many other countries, and must therefore take a bigger share of responsibility,” Kirkens Nødhjelp’s secretary general Anne-Marie Helland told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).

The report, prepared for Helland’s Oslo-based aid organization by the Stockholm Environment Institute and EcoEquity, aimed to establish how much of the global climate cuts it would be fair to assign to Norway, she said. “The point is that we must cut enough to make it probable that the world can achieve its goal of limiting global warming to a maximum of two degrees,” she said.

‘Can’t buy ourselves out of making cuts’
Her organization has become active in efforts to reverse climate change because it believes the world’s poorest nations, which it tries to help, are hit first and worst. Helland also thinks it’s unfair for developing countries to mostly pay the price for climate change, at the expense of their development, while wealthy countries like Norway continue to generate the most emissions.

“We can’t buy ourselves out of making emissions cuts at home,” Helland said. “We can’t continue to hide behind the money we donate to save rain forests.” She claims substantial cuts must be made in Norway, and “the longer we wait, the more expensive it will become.”

Sundtoft, the environment minister from the Conservatives, claimed Norway has contributed more than many other countries to efforts to cut emissions. She said the Conservatives-led government was prepared to make “unpopular” decisions to cut emissions that “would affect all of us,” but she wouldn’t commit to concrete measures to reduce oil and gas activity. Nor would Stoltenberg’s former Labour-led government, since his party was most concerned about creating and maintaining jobs.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund