Of all the complaints lodged over the proposed state budget, those from the environmental movement have been the toughest. One of the strongest critics is Finance Minister Siv Jensen’s own sister, the secretary general of WWF in Norway, Nina Jensen.
“When it comes to climate and the environment, this is one of the worst state budgets I’ve ever seen,” Nina Jensen said after her sister had presented the budget to Parliament and introduced some sweeping tax reform. The head of WWF in Norway criticized not only the lack of emissions control measures but also the government’s admission that emissions would rise instead of fall until 2030.
Jensen also blasted cuts in measures to preserve forests and especially rain forests, and how the government also intended to continue relying on oil and gas. She raged that that government had cut foreign aid for energy projects in developing countries by NOK 300 million and support for international environmental cooperation by NOK 100 million. She claimed the budget deviates from promises Norway made at the UN just last week, when government leaders supported the UN’s sustainability goals. Jensen fears that will weaken Norway’s credibility at the UN climate summit in Paris in December.
“The government had the best possibility ever to emphasize climate and the environment, but let it go,” Jensen told newspaper Dagasavisen. “They have now shown very clearly that they don’t understand what a green shift means in practice.”
No sign of a real ‘green shift’
The WWF boss was far from alone in her complaints. Bellona leader Fredric Hauge sees little sign of any green shift, although it was mentioned by Siv Jensen several times in her budget speech on Wednesday. “Tine Sundtoft (Norway’s environmental minister from the Conservative Party) said last year that Norway would be a green leader in the climate campaign,” Hauge said. “Now it looks like they’re sitting on the sofa and think a green shift is reality TV that we don’t need to pay attention to.”
Arild Hermstad, the leader of Framtiden i våre hender (The future in our hands), accused the government of audacity in claiming that the budget represented a green shift, while Truls Gulowsen of Greenpeace in Norway was also very negative. “It seems like Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Finance Minister Siv Jensen haven’t realized that they themselves have said the country needs a green shift,” Gulowsen said. Marius Holm of the environmental foundation Zero agreed that the government “hasn’t delivered” on a green shift.
The united front also ridiculed the government’s eight “important priorities” set by Sundtoft’s ministry, which included NOK 4.2 million in funding for control of motorized transport in the wilderness, not least because it was Sundtoft’s ministry that opened up for snowmobile use over the strong protests of many environmental and outdoors organizations. Other priorities included cleaning up pollution in the Puddefjord in Solberg’s home district around Bergen.
The budget does include environmental measures including NOK 214 million in funding for more cycling and pedestrian paths, nearly NOK 1.4 billion for operation and maintenance of train lines and NOK 14.25 billion in capital funding for the climate fund. None of that lessened the environmentalists’ disappointment. Sundtoft has responded that she’s not at all ashamed of her ministry’s budget and Nikolai Astrup, the Conservatives’ spokesman on climate and environmental issues claims her ministry was a budget winner.
“The increase in funding for the climate and environmental minstry amounted to 10.2 percent and shows that climate and the environment have a high priority in our party and in this government,” Astrup told news bureau NTB. He also added that a climate technology fund has nearly doubled in size since the conservative coalition government took over, and that it will stimulate creation of more “green jobs.”