Norwegian school students aren’t giving up their efforts to make politicians more responsive to their climate demands, especially after they were snubbed by the Parliament late last week. They’re already planning a new, nationwide strike shortly after school starts up again, on August 30.
“The government doesn’t have climate goals that are good enough, and far from any adequate climate measures,” Tina Razimafimby Våje told news bureau NTB. She’s among the initiators of the school strikes in Norway, which are being arranged by organizations including Changemaker, Natur og Ungdom (Nature and Youth) and the Norwegian equivalent of the YMCA and YWCA (KFUK-KFUM).
Våje also told state broadcaster NRK that she and her fellow climate strikers won’t allow themselves “to be ignored” by Parliament. Her fellow school strike organizer, Embla Regine Mathisen of Changemaker, vowed more strikes “because Norway still hasn’t accepted the enormous responsibility we have for today’s climate crisis.” Crown Prince Haakon has supported the school strikes, but been confronted himself by criticism of Norway’s oil industry from abroad.
A large majority in Parliament that united both the government and opposition parties Labour and Center voted last Thursday to reject the school strikers’ climate demands to halt all new oil exploration, further reduce carbon emissions, raise foreign aid to climate projects abroad and declare that Norway and the world face a climate crisis.
Students’ demands ‘unrealistic’
Only the Socialist Left (SV), Reds and Greens parties supported the striking students, and caught lots of criticism from the other parties for doing so. Terje Halleland of the conservative Progress Party, which is part of the government, claimed it was irresponsible of SV and the Greens to put forth a proposal calling for what the school strikers are demanding, without having accounted for the costs involved.
“I react negatively that established parties choose to copy unrealistic demands, without thinking through the consequences they would have for the economy, unemployment and not least the climate itself,” Halleland told state broadcaster NRK. Others note, however, that Norway’s economic dependency has consequences as well.
Une Bastholm of the Greens Party (MDF) retorted that she was “embarrassed that Norway is among the few countries in Europe where carbon emissions are still rising instead of falling. I’m embarrassed and furious that the government is letting down future generations.”
Bastholm claimed that the government’s only response to the school students striking on behalf of the climate is a proposal for meetings at which the youth would be asked what they can do themselves to live in a more climate-friendly manner.
‘Should be proud’ of Norwegian oil and gas
Oil & Energy Minister Kjell-Børge Freiberg, meanwhile, repeated his ongoing dismissal of the students’ and others’ climate demands, telling newspaper Aftenposten during the weekend that “as long as the world needs oil and gas, Norway will produce it.” He claimed that “we should be proud” of how Norwegian gas has allowed Great Britain to stop using far more polluting coal as an energy source. He also continues to claim that since Norwegian oil and gas are produced with lower carbon emissions than in other countries, Norway’s oil industry is part of the solution to concerns over climate change.
The school students simply aren’t buying that argument, nor will they allow themselves to be scared off by the prospect of job losses and an economic downturn if Norway stops searching for more sources of oil and gas. They’re calling for more efforts to create “greener” jobs through new more climate-friendly ventures instead, although it remains unclear what can replace oil as a new source of wealth.
Våje, the 16-year-old who’s become one of the most visible leaders of the school strikes for the climate in Norway, said she was disappointed by the Parliament’s rejection of the students’ demands, even though it was not unexpected. “We know that our demands are ambitious and difficult to grant, but they’re necessary,” Våje told NRK. “By the time we’re Members of Parliament, it will be too late.”