Despite all the concerns about the climate and carbon emissions, the International Energy Agency (IEA) urged Norway this week to keep expanding its offshore oil and gas exploration and production. Norway’s state-owned oil company Statoil, meanwhile, has cut carbon emissions by 80,000 tons, and Parliament agreed Friday to cut all emissions in Norway by 40 percent by 2030.
Such emissions cuts are likely to become even more important after US President Donald Trump carried out his threat to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement on climate goals. That’s prompted lots of negative reaction in Norway and worldwide, with many believing it will now largely be up to Europe, China and countries like Norway to fulfill the Paris Agreement without the US.
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Friday that Statoil’s success in “modifying” its plant at Melkøya in Hammerfest, which takes in gas from the offshore Snow White field in the Arctic, can result in emissions cuts equal to all those from cars in Oslo. “We think that being energy efficient can be a competitive advantage,” Statoil’s energy coordinator at the Melkøya plant, Rober Stenvoll, told NRK. “We will produce gas with as low a carbon footprint as possible.”
That’s why the IEA wants Norway to keep boosting exploration and production. Demand for oil will continue for many decades, claimed Paul Simons of the IEA during meetings with Norwegian Oil & Energy Minister Terje Søviknes this week. Norway, Simons believes, drills and produces oil in a more sustainable manner than many other countries.
“Norway is a stable and reliable producer with solutions that take sustainability into consideration,” Simons told reporters in Oslo. He can be cheered by a high level of optimism in Northern Norway’s oil industry: News bureau NTB reported earlier this week that for the first time in the history of the Norwegian Continental Shelf, more oil exploration is underway in the Barents Sea than in the North Sea. Statoil alone is spending NOK 1 billion on five drilling projects this summer.
The IEA’s latest review of Norwegian energy policy was music to the ears of Søviknes, who’s bullish on the oil and gas industry and keen to secure vast new areas of the Arctic for exploration and production. That has sparked harsh criticism from environmental and climate advocates, who don’t view oil and gas industry expansion as compatible with efforts to cut emissions. They claim Norwegian government officials and not least the oil and offshore industry are also much more concerned with generating more revenues and profits than reversing climate change.
On Friday, a majority in Parliament went ahead and approved a new climate law for Norway that demands carbon emission levels from 1990 to be cut by at least 40 percent by 2030. “Now that Trump has chosen to pull the US out of the Paris Agreement, it’s even more important for other countries to sharpen their own contribution to avoiding catastrophic climate change,” said Ola Elvestuen, a Member of Parliament for the Liberal Party who also leads the Parliament’s energy and environment committee. “The new climate law will give us stronger systems in the work to cut Norwegian emissions, and commit future governments and Parliaments to carry out emissions cuts in line with our own goals and international commitments.”
The Socialist Left party (SV), meanwhile, called for an even stronger climate law, with more specific plans for how emissions can be cut. SV’s Heikki Holmås complained there is no plan “for how much we shall cut in Norway” in cooperation with EU emissions cuts. He voted in favour of the proposed law, however, without the changes both SV and the Greens party wanted. The Greens have called for phasing out Norway’s oil industry within the next 10 years.