‘All talk, no action’ on emission cuts

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Norwegian politicians are not doing enough to cut carbon emissions in Norway, claim a majority of Norwegian youth in a new national survey. The number of students who now believe climate change is a result of human activity has soared in recent years.

Two-thirds of Norwegians aged 15 to 24 don't think the government is doing enough to cut carbon emissions in Norway. The conservative minority coalition recently latched on to EU climate goals instead of setting specific goals for emission cuts in Norway. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

Two-thirds of Norwegians aged 15 to 24 don’t think the government is doing enough to cut carbon emissions in Norway. The conservative minority coalition recently agreed to go along with EU climate goals instead of setting specific goals for emission cuts in Norway. PHOTO: Statsministerens kontor

The survey, conducted by research firm Opinion for the national youth council LNU, found that two out of three students questioned believe people and industrial activity, “especially carbon emissions,” are responsible for climate change.

“That’s a major increase from the last survey in 2011, when only half believed that,” Naomi Ichihara Røkkum of LNU told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Friday. “We also see that two-thirds of those questioned think emission cuts must be made here at home in Norway.” The survey conducted by the youth council Opinion for Landsrådet for norske barne- og ungdomsorganisasjoner (LNU), questioned 600 Norwegians aged 15 to 24.

Norway's government coalition presenting its long-awaited climate report on how it will cut carbon emissions. From left, new Socialist Left leader Audun Lysbakken, Center Party leader Liv Signe Navarsete, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of the Labour Party and Bård Vegar Solhjell, environment minister from SV. PHOTO: Regjeringen.no

Norway’s former left-center government coalition also presented many programs to reverse climate change but refused to curtail oil and gas industry activity and instead cleared the way for its expansion. From left, the Socialist Left (SV) party leader Audun Lysbakken, Liv Signe Navarsete of the Center Party, former Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of the Labour Party (now secretary general of NATO) and Bård Vegar Solhjell, former environment minister from SV. PHOTO: regjeringen.no

Røkkum said she was “positively surprised” that so many students have strong opinions about climate change, even though last year was the warmest ever recorded in Norway and climate change has become a major topic of conversation.

“The most important thing is that the debate has changed, and that young people are following the debate that’s going on at a national level,” Røkkum told NRK. “We also see that many of those who are active in youth organizations are more committed to making cuts here at home.”

Norway has a high per capita level of carbon emissions because of its large oil and gas industry and small population. It has a history of paying other countries to help cut global emissions, through its huge donations to save rain forests, for example, but Norwegian politicians on both the left and the right have been reluctant to curtail the country’s own oil and gas activity because of the jobs it creates and its importance for the state economy.

Norway’s conservative minority coalition government has also moved forward in recent months with opening up new areas of the Arctic to oil and gas exploration and production. This week it also emerged that Norwegian politicians are unlikely to shut down the state-owned coal mining operations and coal-fired power plants on Norway’s Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, despite being urged to do so by the UN.

The government recently avoided setting any specific carbon emission cuts for Norway itself, opting instead to “contribute” to the EU’s goals for cutting emissions elsewhere in Europe. Government officials insist that means Norway will also cut emissions at home, but environmentalists were disappointed.

“They (the politicians) talk a lot about doing things, but it seems like they don’t really do much in practice,” Camilla Restrup, a mathematics student at the University of Oslo, told NRK. Many students think Norway’s oil and gas industry needs to be reduced, while Restrup thinks more could also be done to improve public transportation. “Fares just keep going up, and then more people choose to drive their cars,” Restrup said.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund