Just before taking off on maternity leave, Greens leader Une Bastholm has had to fend off lots of negative reaction to the new platform hammered out by her party during the weekend. The Greens’ agenda has been deemed both far too radical and authoritarian by potential government partners.
Bastholm has hoped to cooperate with both the Labour and Socialist Left parties on formation of a new government coalition after the September election. The Greens have long been positioned on the left side of Norwegian politics, which now collectively seems favoured in public opinion polls to win the next election.
Top Labour politicians, however, have firmly rejected the new agenda for the Greens, which also has been falling in public opinion polls. The party’s platform now calls, among other things, for an end to the oil industry and a 95 percent cut in carbon emissions by 2035, along with a 50 percent cut in meat consumption and production. That “sends signals,” Labour leader Jonas Gahr Støre told newspaper Aftenposten after the Greens meeting, “that won’t contribute towards mobilizing fellowship or the cooperation needed” to succeed with climate-friendly policy.
“I think the Greens’ response to that challenge will result in worse climate policy,” Støre said. “MDG (Miljøpartiet De Grønne) is now setting percentage cuts that will shut down important parts of Norwegian industry.” He thinks other parts of the Greens’ agenda also “steal attention” from what’s important.
“When they say ‘no’ to meat and ‘yes’ to hash (cannabis) and nuclear power, they’re diverting attention from the biggest job at hand: cutting emissions,” Støre said. “It risks offending lots of groups (of voters).” The Greens currently hold just under the 4 percent of the national vote needed for full representation in Parliament. Their support in Oslo has fallen from just over 15 percent in the last municipal election in 2019, to just under 7 percent as of last week.
‘Lost touch with reality’
Labour’s largest potential government partner, the farmer-friendly Center Party, utterly rejects the Greens’ politics. Center leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum claims the Greens have “lost touch with Norwegian reality.” Asked whether he thinks the Greens have placed themselves outside any coalition discussion, Vedum told Aftenposten: “Yes, I think so, but they’ve done that for a long time. They just confirmed it during the weekend.”
Bastholm has in turn accused Vedum of being “childish” and mounting “political stunts,” such as when he parked his diesel-driven Volvo on a sidewalk in Oslo’s inner city to protest the Greens’ proposal to ban all fossil-fueled vehicles in the Norwegian capital. She fended off the latest round of criticism, not least from Center, which she accuses of having climate policy that’s “as bad as the (conservative) Progress Party’s.” Progress has, in the meantime, claimed that “a Corona-closed Norway is a dream society” for the Greens.
Bastholm claims the Greens have merely “sharpened” their policy for saving the climate and protecting nature. “We have boosted our climate goals and declared clearly that a final date for an end to oil is needed,” Bastholm told newspaper Klassekampen. “And we have taken steps in the direction of other green parties in Europe (regarding various social policy).” She backs the proposed high taxes and fees aimed at discouraging Norwegians from eating meat and isn’t afraid that the Greens are saying “no” to too many things.
Simply being ‘clear about what’s needed’
Bastholm isn’t worried about the Greens being viewed as too negative, or even as fanatics. “Those of us in the Greens just want to be clear about what’s needed, not to be provocative but because we don’t think other parties are being clear. We are most concerned with communicating what has to be done (to halt climate change). When other parties don’t do that, we’re deemed to be ‘radical.'”
She admitted that she didn’t support one of the most shocking additions to the Greens’ platform: support for research on nuclear power technology. She voted against that, but supported it as party leader, stressing that “this is only about research on nuclear power. We haven’t gone in for development of nuclear power as an energy source.”
The Greens also voted to phase out Norway’s controversial whaling industry, while a proposal to support membership in the EU (which is widely viewed as more climate-oriented than Norway) was defeated.
Asked by Klassekampen whether she fears a polarized election campaign this fall (when she may return early from Norway’s lengthy paid maternity leave), Bastholm acknowledged that the Greens may increase the temperature of debate. She insists, though, that the party (which will now be led by Arild Hermstad in her absence) is keen on cooperating with others despite its “radical” agenda. “But we can’t begin any negotiations by toning down what we think is important,” Bastholm said.