Wednesday, October 20

If Norway doesn’t take the lead in a green transition, who?

  • Paul Hagen Beaumont

    Principal Investigator, Norwegian Institute for Foreign Policy (Nupi)

  • Cedric de Coning

    Researcher I, Norwegian Institute for Foreign Policy (Nupi)

  • Elisabeth rosvold

    Principal Investigator, Norwegian Institute for Foreign Policy (Nupi)

Completing Norwegian oil exploration will not only benefit the environment. It will also end the cognitive dissonance between Norway’s stated goals and practices, the publication’s authors write. Illustration photo.

The sooner Norway embarks on a responsible but swift end to the oil adventure, the greater the political, diplomatic and commercial gains.

This is a discussion post. Opinions in the text are the responsibility of the writer.

One of the biggest questions in the negotiations for a new red-green government is whether Norway should end its exploration of new oil and gas fields. To obtain a majority in the Storting, the Center Party and the Labor Party must agree with SV, who until now has been clear that all exploration must stop. The two biggest parties, on the other hand, want more exploration.

Much of the debate in the election campaign focused on the cost of a green change. He overlooked that a quick restructuring could also bring Norway great advantages internationally.

Norway now has a historic opportunity within its grasp: if the country becomes the first oil state to successfully outrun oil, it will generate significant political and economic gains, both domestically and abroad.

The benefits of leading

In other words, the benefits of being the first country to successfully restructure must also be included in cost-benefit analyzes.

In the run-up to the elections, the question was not whether Norway should at some point stop oil exploration and adapt to a green economy. Rather it was about how much longer the country can put it off.

Our argument is that the earlier Norway starts this process, the greater the profits.

Paul Beaumont, Cedric de Coning and Elisabeth Lio Rosvold are researchers at the Norwegian Institute for Foreign Policy (Nupi). They are all working on the Nupi project “Climate-Related Peace and Security Risks (CPSR)”.

We believe that the knowledge acquired in such a process could become a valuable commercial resource for the country. If Norway becomes a pioneer model for a successful transition, other countries will come to us to learn.

This knowledge can also form the core of a new and not inconsiderable model of development cooperation. In it, Norway can help other countries in their restructuring. As we have seen, for example, with the Petroleum Development Program, these partnerships can also create important opportunities for the private sector.

An obligation and an opportunity

Researchers from the UN Panel on Climate Change are clear in their warnings: if we do not reach the zero emissions targets by 2050, the consequences for the global ecosystem will be very serious.

Earlier this year, UN Secretary General António Guterres participated in an open debate on climate security. He then listed cuts in greenhouse gas emissions as the first of four priorities on the UN’s climate security agenda.

In line with this, Norway has pledged to use its time on the UN Security Council (2021-2022) to ensure that “addressing climate change, one of the greatest security threats of the 21st century, becomes the core of his mandate. “

Globally, Norway’s work for peace and development is highly regarded. The good reputation also has its origin in the good living conditions of this country. Then, insisting on further oil exploration could ultimately threaten Norway’s diplomatic integrity.

Economics professor Branko Milanovic recently pointed out in Global Policy magazine that Norway’s green diplomacy lacks credibility as long as the economy is carbon-based. To illustrate the point about the great gap between Norway’s public image and its economic reality, Milanovic compares Norway to The East India Company during the Opium War in the 19th century. Then Britain banned the sale of opium at home, while at the same time going to war for the right to sell opium to the Chinese.

This contradiction was also highlighted in Time magazine a few days before the parliamentary elections. Political scientist Ian Bremmer reminded us that Norway, under its “green surface”, remains the most fossil-dependent industrialized democracy in the world.

The day after the elections, the front page of the Danish daily Dagbladet Information read, even in Norwegian, that “if you, with 12 billion oil, cannot make a quick green change, no one can.”

What can we expect?

If Norway chooses to keep looking for new oil fields, it will give other oil producers an excuse to keep pumping. As Milanovic says: if Norway, one of the richest countries in the world, does not want to stop exploration, how can we persuade Nigeria to do so?

Norway risks becoming a prime example of how to adapt to the consequences of climate change rather than take action to change the global economy and aim for zero emissions.

But a quick change presents a unique opportunity. Precisely because it is well known that a major reason for the high standard of living in Norway is responsible and long-term management of oil wealth, it will be of great political importance to carry out a quick and efficient restructuring.

Completing Norwegian oil exploration will not only benefit the environment. It will also end the cognitive dissonance between the goals and practices declared by Norway. It will increase Norway’s opportunities for influence in all international climate forums and have a positive ripple effect in other sectors, such as social security, trade and energy.

The elections facing the new government

Norway’s new government faces a choice on the way. One direction is to take Norway from being an oil economy to becoming both a pioneering model of change and a credible leader in global efforts to solve the climate crisis.

The other direction is to postpone the inevitable and continue dependence on oil. Not only will it harm the biosphere, it will also undermine Norway’s reputation on the world stage.

The so-called middle way is not a real alternative. The longer Norway postpones restructuring, the more expensive it will be, even for the integrity of the country globally.

The sooner Norway embarks on a responsible but swift end to the oil adventure, the greater the political, diplomatic and commercial gains.

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