Members of Norway’s Greens party (Miljøpartiet De Grønne, MDG) voted at their national meeting over the weekend to work towards phasing out the country’s oil industry within 10 years. Oil Minister Terje Søviknes dismissed the move as “totally unrealistic” and “ridiculous.”
Søviknes, from the conservative Progress Party (Fremskritts Partiet, FrP), went on to accuse the Greens of living in “utopia” and promoting “catastrophe” for the Norwegian economy. Party members, Søviknes told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK), should think about the families of those employed in the oil business.
“A managed phase-out of the oil industry within the next 15 years is utter madness,” said Søviknes, who is bullish on the oil business and has been charging ahead with plans to open up ever more areas of the Norwegian Continental Shelf for oil exploration and production. His plans to launch new licensing rounds for areas of the sensitive Arctic have been harshly criticized, not least by the Greens.
It was the party’s youth organization that proposed the 15-year phase-out at the meeting that’s been going on in Lillehammer since Friday. It ended up winning majority support, but not from the Greens’ own leadership. The party’s lone Member of Parliament, Rasmus Hansson, was among those voting against the measure even though he doesn’t like the oil business or the carbon emissions it generates. Now he’ll have to defend the majority’s vote, however.
“It’s for the families, and next generations, that we’re doing this,” Une Bastholm, who shares party leadership with Hansson, told NRK. “It’s certainly not new that the Greens and Søviknes stand on opposite sides in environmental and oil policy.”
She has voted earlier for a phase-out over 20 years, and stresses that Norway’s economy is already in a restructuring mode away from its oil dependency. “We prefer a politically planned phase-out instead of risking that the market goes through another fast change (like when oil prices collapsed three years ago) and we suddenly had 50,000 people out of work.”
Søviknes, meanwhile, claims the world will still need oil and gas for years to come and that Norway must maintain its production levels. He also claims Norway will still be able to meet its climate goals in accordance with the Paris agreement. Others don’t believe that, and accuse Norway of being hypocritical in conveying a climate-friendly image while continuing to churn our carbon emissions.