Climate change tops all political issues

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Climate change has, for the first time, topped an annual list that ranks Norway’s most important political issues. It remains unclear, however, whether Norwegians and not least their political leaders will be willing to make the sacrifices needed to reverse it.

Climate issues have leaped to the top of the political agenda in Norway, not least after young protesters like these have mounted climate demonstrations all year. This sign at a demonstration in Oslo reads that they “want to have a tomorrow.” PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

The annual Klimabarometeret (Climate Barometer)  was released just after the Greens Party (MDG), for example, issued calls for dramatic tax increases to reduce carbon emissions. The Greens want to spend NOK 20 billion more than the current Conservatives’ led coalition government on climate measures.

To finance it, and cut carbon emissions, the Greens are calling for tax hikes of NOK 31 billion. They include an increase of NOK 5 per liter of gasoline to further discourage driving fossil-fueled vehicles. That would raise the price for unleaded gasoline at the pump to around NOK 22 per liter, or the equivalent of around USD 10 per gallon.

The Greens also want to sharply raise airline seat taxes and all but ban domestic flights to and from cities served by rail connections. Oil industry revenues would also be heavily taxed, while carbon fees paid by oil producers in the field would double. The party’s alternative state budget aims to phase out the oil industry while encourging more wind energy and other renewable resources.

Taxes and fees as tools for change
“We’re using taxes to redistribute income, and fees to secure the principle that ‘polluters pay,'” declared Une Bastholm, a Member of Parliament for the Greens, which swept local elections in September. Current public opinion polls have shown them with the most growth in voter support, at least before their latest tax policies were revealed.

After years of failing to meet climate goals, the Greens stress that their budget and policies would be the first to do just that. They also claim their programs would create new jobs in the renewable sector. State support would also be granted to more electrification projects.

They’re on a roll, bolstered by the new Climate Barometer poll conducted by research firm Kantar, results of which were reported by news bureau NTB. It showed that 49 percent of those questioned ranked climate change as the most important political issue facing Norway.

That put it at the top of the issue rankings, followed by health care, immigration and integration. It’s the first time climate came out on top in the poll taken for 10 years in a row.

Politicians told ‘to sharpen up’
“I think this amounts to a clear message to all involved with climate issues, to sharpen up,” Gaute Eiterjord, leader of the environmental organization Natur og Ungdom (Nature and Youth) told NTB. “Voters want to see more things happening.”

The current government’s climate performance scored three on a scale from one to six with six as the highest. The most common criticism was that there was “too much talk and not enough action” on the part of government politicians.

Climate issues, however, continue to split even the opposition in Parliament. While the Greens are most keen to cooperate with parties on the left side in opposition, and the Socialist Left party (SV) wants to develop a center-left platform before the next parliamentary election in 2021, the Center Party is not interested in cooperating with any other party than Labour.

The Greens and Center, meanwhile, strongly disagree on many issues, with Center under ongoing criticism that it’s not nearly ‘”green enough” because of its support for the oil industry and its recent proposal to lower fossil fuel taxes instead of raising them.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund