Norwegian Finance Minister Siv Jensen was heading into her Progress Party’s annual national meeting this weekend amidst a new swirl of controversy. She set off a fuss when she said during an interview that she’s still not convinced climate change is a result of human activity.
Jensen has been what the Norwegians call a “climate skeptic” for years, so her response on Aftenposten TV Tuesday came as no big surprise. Asked whether she was convinced that “documented climate change” was caused by people, she said “No.” Asked in a follow-up question whether she was thus in doubt about what caused climate change, she said “Yes.”
Asked whether that means she doesn’t back the UN Climate Panel, for example, Jensen stopped giving such clear answers, but said she did back “the climate agreement that the government is part of. We will make sure that business gets a good and competitive framework (around climate issues). Therefore it’s important with the EU cooperation we’re now embarking on.”
Her comments almost seemed like a gift to her government’s opposition politicians in Parliament, who pounced immediately. Heikki Holmås of the Socialist Left called them “embarrassing” for Norway: “It’s incredible that anyone who believes refugees are people, and that climate problems are our time’s greatest challenge, can give the Progress Party influence.”
Labour leader Jonas Gahr Støre suggested Jensen’s attitude posed a “serious” issue for the government. “She says she respects the government’s climate agreement,” Støre said, but added that her attitude can have an adverse effect on any real change, “or just oblige her to follow the policies of others.”
Rasmus Hansson of the Greens party said Jensen’s comments “only confirm what’s been lying under the rhetoric from Siv Jensen and the Progress Party during their government cooperation.”
Oil & Energy Minister Tord Lien, Jensen’s own party fellow, was quick to say on the floor of Parliament Wednesday that he certainly believes climate change has resulted from human activity, not least the carbon emissions that the oil industry creates. That hasn’t stopped him, though, from opening up more areas of the Arctic to oil exploration and production, despite protests.
Defending their record
Politicians from the Conservatives, who share government power with Jensen, were also quick to distance themselves from Jensen’s remarks. “The government has far more ambitious climate policies than (the previous) left-center government did,” claimed Nikolai Astrup, environmental spokesman for the Conservatives. He claimed that Lien had given a boost to renewable energy projects, Transport Minister Ketil Solvik-Olsen was investing more in public transport than the former government did, and that Jensen herself had funded climate technology projects.
Jensen will be gathering her troops this weekend for the latest in a round of national political party meetings in Norway. Other controversial issues on their agenda include the party’s refusal to accept additional refugees into the country, and whether the party was being forced to compromise on too many issues for the sake of government unity. The party’s standing in public opinion polls has plummeted since taking office.