Not even what the government calls “the greenest state budget ever” will enable Norway to meet its climate goals for 2020, and its unlikely to meet the goals promised as part of the UN’s Paris Agreement for 2030 either. The Greens Party is already threatening to propose a lack of confidence vote in Parliament, to topple Prime Minister Erna Solberg’s coalition government.
“We won’t actually know until 2022 whether we reached the climate goals for 2020,” Sveinung Rotevatn, state secretary in the Climate and Environment Ministry for the Liberal Party, told newspaper Aftenposten on Tuesday. “But yes, it looks like it’s going to be very, very difficult.”
The Norwegian government in which Rotevatn serves rolled out a proposed state budget on Monday with a record NOK 7 billion worth of climate measures. They included funding for renewable energy, forestry and other projects. Another allocation (NOK 225 million) was made to keep working on a carbon capture and storage project that’s critical to Oslo’s own goals of becoming emissions free by 2030. Critics, however, worry the government still has too many questions around the expensive project and won’t decide on committing until sometime next year.
Failing to deliver
Norway was supposed to cut its carbon emissions to around 46.5 million tons by then. The government’s own calculations in the state budget presented on Monday show that Norway is nonetheless likely to generate emissions next year of nearly 51 million tons.
What’s worse is the fear that Norway won’t meet its obligations under the Paris Agreement hammered out at the historic UN summit in 2015 either, even though Norway was viewed even then as shielding its oil industry. The country ultimately committed itself to cutting 40 percent of the emissions generated in 1990, with a goal of emitting just under 31 tons in 2030. Skeptics and climate activists applauded the goals but kept wondering how such cuts could be made, and how the government could adhere to its UN goals, when the government continued to grant licenses for more oil exploration and production.
Now the government’s calculations indicate that Norway will still be generating carbon emissions of 45 million tons in 2030, way over the agreed amount. That’s not good news for the credibility of a Norwegian government that’s currently lobbying hard for a seat on the UN Security Council.
Rotevatn, whose Liberal Party is among the most climate-oriented in Solberg’s conservative coalition, admitted that it would “take the shutdown of a factory, or that type of thing” to meet goals for 2020. Few now think Norway can meet its climate goals unless it finally manages to get a carbon capture and storage facility on line and curtails oil exploration and production.
Climate Minister Ola Elvestuen, who took off to attend a climate meeting in Costa Rica on Tuesday, had earlier confirmed to newspaper Klassekampen that Norway won’t meet its goals for next year. He preferred to stress that there has been “a considerable decline” in Norwegian emissions from the 52.9 tons emitted last year, though, “so we’re well on the way with reductions heading towards 2030.”
Elvestuen, also from the Liberal party, said new plans for achieving the cuts by 2030 will be presented next year, insisting it was still possible. Elvestuen pointed to how strong sales of electric cars keep exceeding expectations, for example, while Rotevatn pointed to the introduction of more electric ferries and other vessels as well. “We will cut by 45 percent,” Elvestuen insisted, but others are skeptical.
The Greens Party (Miljøpartiet De Grønne, MDG), for example, is evaluating whether to lodge another lack of confidence vote against Solberg’s government. “We’re living in a time when we need to be making giant leaps in policies to lower emissions,” MDG spokesperson Arild Hermstad told Aftenposten. “This government is taking tiny steps.” His party put forth a lack of confidence proposal against the government last year on the grounds Norway would not meet its climate goals for 2020. Only two parties voted in favour of it, MDG and the Reds party, but now the goals aren’t being met.
“This is a crisis,” claimed the leader of Norway’s Socialist Left party (SV), Audun Lysbakken. He reminded the government that researchers “give us a decade to make sure we meet the Paris goals to limit global warming to 1.5 degress.” He told Klassekampen that “every budget without funding to act is a lost year.”
Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre was also critical and fears the 2030 goals will be shoved farther into the future. When Labour and SV held government power from 2005 to 2013, though, they didn’t manage to bring down emissions or meet climate goals either. Støre admitted Labour wouldn’t have been any more successful than Solberg’s coalition in meeting the 2020 goals, but claims his party now has a “new orientation regarding these issues.” They’re suddenly insisting they’re more climate-conscious than the government in power.
Neither Labour nor the Conservatives are willing, though, to halt more oil exploration or limit oil production to significantly bring down emissions. Torgeir Knag Fylkesnes of SV is, along with the Greens, claiming that’s the only way Norway can make the emissions cuts needed. If Norway fails to meet the goals set in Paris, its international credibility may be severely damaged.
“Folks have thought that Norway is this green nation that’s out in front and fulfills its international obligations from foreign aid to the environment and fighting poverty,” Fylkesnes told Aftenposten. “Now we’re missing the most important goal we’ve set for us as a nation.”