40 arrested after climate, oil protests

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Climate activists were out early in Oslo on Monday morning, to demonstrate against Norway’s pro-oil policies and the government’s failure to declare a climate crisis. By midday, police had arrested around 40 people taking part in various demonstrations around the city.

“The Oil Age is over,” claims this banner displayed at one of three demonstrations by climate activists in Oslo on Monday. The activists from the organization Extinction Rebellion also demanded a “green re-start now,” just as more offshore oil exploration projects were being announced along with one of the government’s long-delayed carbon capture and storage projects. PHOTO: Extinction Rebellion

The demonstrations came just as another oil company active on Norway’s continental shelf, Wintershall DEA, had announced chartering a semisubmersible drilling rig from Norwegian company Odfjell Drilling for more oil exploration in the Norwegian Sea and on the Vega oil field in the northern portion of the North Sea. Odfjell’s rig Deepsea Aberdeen will be used to drill four exploration and infill wells in 2021.

That’s the last thing environmentalists and climate activists want, as they try to prod Norway into greener industries and away from oil and gas. On Monday it was the organization Extinction Rebellion Norway that blocked a busy intersection at the top of Karl Johans Gate in Oslo early in the morning, and later demonstrated outside two government ministries.

Peaceful protests
The activists had chained themselves together in the first demonstration, which involved around 80 people who put up no resistance when police attempted to remove them. They were also peaceful outside the ministry, where one topless young woman kneeled quietly with her eyes closed as another demonstrator wearing a suit, tie and face mask doused her with a thick black substance. (See photos here, external link to state broacaster NRK, in Norwegian). She told state broadcaster NRK that she wanted to portray humanity’s vulnerability to the ill effects of oil and climate change by being naked.

In yet another demonstration, activists protested outside the ministry for trade and fisheries, dressed up in fish costumes and literally gluing their hands to a ministry sign and wall. “They’re demanding that government authorities acknowledge global warming and destruction of the biosphere,” police operations leader Vidar Pedersen told NRK. He stressed that none of the activists acted aggressively towards either the police or passersby.

‘We want a future’
One of the demonstrators, Dag Kolstø, claimed their message was clear: “Enough’s enough. The government has to stop the oil industry. We will continue to create disturbances until they have stopped the oil industry. We want to have a future, and it’s their responsibility to provide it.”

Others argue that without the oil industry, Norway’s economy will not be able to provide much of an economic future for its residents. One Member of Parliament for the Conservative Party, Stefan Heggelund, called the demonstrators a “spoiled mob” that’s doing the climate movement more bad than good.

“You don’t win much sympathy for the climate with this, and it’s important we do,” Heggelund told NRK.

One carbon capture project, not two
The demonstrations came also as Prime Minister Erna Solberg was finally announcing that her government had decided to only invest in one long-awaited carbon capture and storage project, at the Norcem cement factory in Porsgrunn, instead of two. Another has been sought at the Fortum recycling plant at Klemetsrud in Oslo, which alone accounts for around 14 percent of the Norwegian capital’s total emissions.

Both projects are expected to cut emissions by around 400,000 tons of CO2 every year, and supporters are likely to be disappointed that the government will only fund one of them, at least for now. Oil & Energy Minister Tina Bru claimed nonetheless that the Porsgrunn project will be the biggest climate project in Norwegian industry ever. Climate activists would rather see the oil industry cut back at the same time.

NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund