Climate activists are calling it “embarrassing” but Environment Minister Ola Elvestuen wasn’t surprised when state statistics bureau SSB (Statistics Norway) reported Monday that Norway’s carbon emissions were 0.4 percent higher in 2018 than in 2017. Elvestuen blames less use of palm oil in fuel, along with more emissions from road transport.
“We still don’t have enough of the good biofuels to replace palm oil,” Elvestuen claimed when news broke of another rise in Norway’s emissions at a time when neighbouring countries are reporting declines. Emissions in Norway hit nearly 53 million tons of carbon equivalents, according to SSB, around 200,000 tons more than in 2017.
The small percentage increase prompted SSB itself to describe emissions as “flattening out” in Norway. Emissions from Norway’s disputed oil and gas industry continue to decline, but emissions from aviation, shipping, fishing, road traffic and other transport and motor use were up more than 6 percent. Increased consumption of the oil industry’s main product, fossil fuel, is behind the overall increase, according to SSB, along with the “considerable reduction” in the use of biofuel that’s blended with motor fuel.
‘Using less palm oil’
The decline in biofuel use is tied to a “strong reduction” in imports of palm oil, and that’s what Elvestuen cites as the main reason for Norway’s emissions increase. He also defended the reduction of palm oil imports, calling that part of a conscious political strategy.
“We’re using less palm oil and that’s our chosen policy,” Elvestuen said. “The increase in climate emissions isn’t surprising, because we have worked hard to bring down the use of palm oil fuels.”
He vowed “dramatic cuts” in carbon emissions in the years ahead and still insists Norway will meet its goal of a 45 percent reduction by 2030. He said work will continue to replace palm oil with more biofuel. He said Norway’s heavy and ever-rising use of electric vehicles would also have an effect.
Elvestuen announced Monday, meanwhile, that the government coalition won’t make any more compromises on road tolls to satisfy the Progress Party, a coalition member eager to respond to protests of motorists all over the country. Road tolls (called bompenger in Norwegian) have become a political hot potato, and may even topple the government, but a majority of politicians think they’re necessary to reduce driving.
Silje Lundberg, leader of Norway’s chapter of Friends of the Earth (Naturvernforbundet), was not impressed by Elvestuen’s promises, and rather thinks he and other Norwegians should be embarrassed by the rise in carbon emissions.
“It (the albeit small rise) shouldn’t even be possible when we know how serious and huge our climate problems are,” Lundberg told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “We can’t have Norway’s emissions going in the wrong direction. It just shows that we don’t have climate policies that are anywhere near what’s needed to meet the climate crisis we face.”
Lundberg agreed that it’s positive that palm oil use has declined, to help save forests, but she urged more measures to reduce use of oil and fossil-fueled transport. “Our electric car use is fine, but it’s not enough,” she said.
“Compared with other countries in Europe, it’s embarrassing that we’re among the few where emissions have gone up since 1990,” Lundberg added. “Now the government must put forth a crisis package for the climate, with concrete measures to reduce emissions in all sectors.”