They focussed on Norway because it has long been a supporter of ambitious global reduction targets and has used part of its oil revenues to develop renewable technologies and tackle deforestation. If it cannot leave fossil fuels in the ground and make the transition to a carbon-free economy, the authors ask, then how can any of its rivals in less developed nations be expected to do so?
“This is uncharacteristically irrational behaviour for Norway,” said Hannah McKinnon of Oil Change International. “The Paris climate goals mean the world has to stay within a finite carbon budget. Norway’s current plans for fossil fuel production, expansion, and exploration are dangerously out of line with these budgets. Norway can’t be a climate leader at the same time as depending on new oil and gas production.”
The government says such accusations are unfair because they run against the convention at international climate talks for the responsibility for emissions to lie with consumers rather than producers. In this regard – of purely domestic carbon use – it is doing better than most nations because it gets 97% of its electricity from renewable sources, has a high carbon tax, is a leader in promotion of electric vehicles, and is pioneering carbon capture and storage at waste plants and cement factories.
It also notes that oil and gas output is flat, it is unrealistic to assume that all exploration will be successful and the trend for overall production is away from carbon-heavy oil and towards cleaner gas, which is important as a “transition fuel” for countries that are trying to move away from coal. Officials point out that without Norway’s gas the UK would be far further behind in meeting its climate goals.
“We are part of the solution, not the problem,” the deputy minister for petroleum and energy, Ingvil Smines Tybring-Gjedde, told the Guardian. “This government is investing more in renewables and energy efficiency than any other. But renewables are not yet at a level where we can switch off oil and gas. We need a bridge.”
The government argues that its oil and gas reserves are the most efficiently extracted in the world and that, so as long as there is demand for these fuels, it is better that they come from Norway. It also puts the number of newly offered exploration blocks closer to 50.