As Norway committed more billions to help save the world’s rain forests this week, Norwegian politicians quarreled over who should get the credit for initiating the program. Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who oversaw the latest funding commitment at the UN in New York on Tuesday, thinks her Conservative Party should get as much credit as the former Labour-led government.
“Labour has made a fine contribution, too,” Solberg told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) on her way to the latest climate summit at the UN. “They carried out much of what we’d agreed on (in Parliament), but to say that (rain forest preservation) was a project of the last red-green government would be wrong, when we were the first who proposed it.”
The project to donate billions of Norwegian kroner to preserve rain forests in, for example, Brazil and Indonesia, was closely linked to former Labour Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, who recently stepped down as a UN Special Envoy on climate issues. Stoltenberg traveled the globe and hosted rain forest conferences in Oslo, aimed at getting other countries to cut their carbon emissions. Norway funded their efforts also to help offset Norway’s own high per capita emissions generated by the country’s oil industry.
Solberg’s turn to commit funding
Now Solberg, who succeeded Stoltenberg as prime minister last fall, is attending her first whirlwind week of events in New York tied to the opening of the UN General Assembly. On Tuesday it was her turn to commit more funding, this time NOK 2.8 billion (USD 444 million) to Peru and Liberia, to cut carbon emissions tied to the destruction of forests.
Rain forest preservation has emerged as Norway’s most important climate measure in an international context. Solberg is tired of Labour getting most of the credit for a program that’s been hailed worldwide.
“When we negotiated climate measures, the Conservatives were the first party that proposed a major contribution regarding forests,” Solberg said. “And it was the parties in opposition (at the time) that asked for NOK 3 billion for it, and got it as part of the political compromise.”
On Tuesday, she helped run a high-level meeting in New York on the forests. Norway has now donated a total of NOK 11. 5 billion towards protecting rain forests, with Brazil and Indonesia the biggest recipients. “The agreement is very important,” she said, claiming that it has greater effect than what Norway can do to cut its own emissions at home. “As long as the climate challenge is global, it’s important for us to do what will yield the greatest return,” she said.
Environmentalists due most credit
Stoltenberg didn’t want to comment on Solberg’s remarks but Jonas Gahr Støre, new head of the Labour Party, said it was important to correctly remember the history behind Norway’s rain forest initiative.
“If anyone should get the credit for the initiative it’s in fact the Rain Forest Fund and Friends of the Earth Norway (Naturvernforbundet), led by Lars Løvold and Lars Haltbrekken,” Støre wrote in an email to DN. “It was their idea, and their constant work in talking to politicians led to the breakthrough for the rain forest project.”
Støre noted that the initiative then became part of the Labour-led government’s policy. “When Jens Stoltenberg was prime minister, he launched the rain forest project at the climate summit in Bali in 2007. He committed NOK 3 billion annually to fight the destruction of rain forests. We gladly share the credit for this and many other good proposals with other parties in the Parliament. What’s best is that there is a broad majority behind them.”
More than 100 government leaders and several hundred business leaders are taking part in the UN climate meeting in New York ahead of the next round of climate negotiations in France next year.