Norway’s parliamentary election on September 13 tested the country’s commitment to fighting climate change. With the election of new prime minister Jonas Gahr Støre of the Labour Party, many are wondering how the country will reconcile its fossil fuel-based economy with a need for climate action.
As David Boyd, U.N. Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment, reports Norway has a “strong environmental record.” Hydropower plants generate most of the country’s power, and its air and water are fairly clean. Strict environmental regulations ban fossil fuels for heating in buildings. In August, about 70% of new cars sold in Norway were electric; that’s more than any other country on Earth. These climate-friendly indicators are at odds with Norway’s continued economic dependence on fossil fuels.
This paradox can be put into context by looking at the history of Norway’s economy. While the Norwegian economy was stable when relying on fishing and timber operations, it grew tremendously as the country began focusing on fossil fuel production. Fossil fuels comprise 14% of Norway’s GDP and 41% of its exports. The industry also accounts for 6-7% of employment. Currently, Norway’s petroleum production is predicted to increase until 2024.
Conservatives and Labour, known as establishment parties, recognize a need to transition away from fossil fuels — though their commitment to proactive change is questionable. Still, a coalition between the Labour and Socialist Left parties could produce some changes. Complete ending fossil fuel exploration faces an uncertain future, however, as the Green Party lost out in the election.
Summing up the election results, CNN reports, “Labour secured some 26% of the ballots, which translates to 48 seats in the 169-seat parliament. The eurosceptic Progess Party came in third, but is an unlikely Labour ally. The smaller Center Party and the Socialist Left Party gained 28 and 13 seats, respectively. The Greens ended with just three seats, two more than it already had.”
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