‘Prime Minister is not listening to us’

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UPDATED: Thousands of Norwegian school students joined youth all over the world in cutting classes and demonstrating once again on Friday. Their latest school strikes against passive politicians are another effort to get their leaders to lead in the effort to cut carbon emissions, and Prime Minister Erna Solberg was their main target.

School students in Oslo defied pouring rain on Friday to protest politicians’ passivity on climate issues in front of the Norwegian Parliament. This sign reads: “Enough talk! The climate demands action.” PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

The students complain that  Solberg and a majority in Parliament have only further provoked them. “I want Solberg to say that she takes our future seriously and will grant our demands,” 13-year-old Even Jacobsen told news bureau NTB. “What provokes us the most is that she continues to praise our engagement, but she’s not listening.”

Solberg tried to prove him wrong, braving both the rain and a decidedly chilly reception to speak to the young demonstrators in Oslo on Friday. She was booed when she spoke about what her government has done “and will do, to stop climate change.” She carried on, even stating that “the world faces a climate crisis … we know that,” and she won some applause when she talked about Norway’s commitment to promoting use of electric vehicles. She said she could understand that her audience was “frustrated and impatient,” but she stopped short of offering any reining in of Norway’s offshore oil industry.

Jacobsen, one of the initiators of Friday’s school strikes in Bergen, Oslo, Trondheim, Hamar and 27 other cities and town around the country, is among those asking for nothing less than an end to the issuance of more licenses for offshore oil exploration and production, and creation of more climate-friendly jobs. Backed by organizations including Natur og ungdom (Nature and Youth), the striking students also want Norway to further increase its climate goals and cut Norway’s own carbon emissions by more than half by 2030. They believe Norway should also offer more financial aid to countries and island nations seriously threatened by the climate change that Norway and its oil industry has helped create.

The young protesters are especially angry with Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who they claim hasn’t been listening to their demands. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

Their message is to “take the future seriously.” More than 40,000 school strikers turned out in March and thousands more were taking part at 31 locations around the country on Friday, despite bad weather and lots of rain in Oslo and much of southern Norway. The turnout was expected to be lower than last time, because school students are now in the midst of year-end exams, but youth nonetheless turned out from Alta in the north to Fredrikstad in the south. Demonstrations were also held in smaller communities like Karasjok and Finnsnes, and cities like Hamar and Kristiansand, where residents are much more reliant on their cars than in bigger cities with better public transportation. School climate strikes were also held in cities known for their oil industry activity, not least Stavanger and Haugesund.

While the students have gained some support from Crown Prince Haakon, they claim Solberg had “thrown oil on the fire” with her “empty” praise and flat refusal to halt issuance of oil exploration licenses. Her arguments remain the same, with government ministers along with the opposition Labour Party continuing to claim that the world still needs Norway’s oil and gas, that gas can replace coal as a source of energy and that the oil and gas industry creates needed jobs in Norway. On Friday, Solberg tried to convince the young crowd that “in fact things have happened since you went on strike the last time.” Carbon emissions in Norway, however, have been rising, not falling.

The Parliament is due to vote on the school strikers’ demands early next month, based on proposals put forth by the Socialist Left party (SV) and the Greens (MDG). The strikers vow to continue their protest actions, which began last winter and started to spread at the inspiration  Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg.

The prime minister, according to Natur og Ungdom leader Gaute Eiterjord, can either “choose to turn her back on thousands of children and youth, or take the climate crisis seriously and let the oil lie, cut Norwegian emissions in line with the (UN) Paris Agreement and boost climate aid considerably.” Anything less seemed likely to be booed again.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund