With #FridaysForFuture founder Greta Thunberg and 15 other youth campaigners in Madrid calling out Canada and Norway for violating children’s rights and urging them to wind down their oil and gas production, Norway’s top fossil lobbyist is openly fretting about the “intense” nature of the debate around his industry’s climate impact.
The statement on behalf of the youth from law firm Hausfeld LLP contended that higher fossil output breaks the countries’ promises under the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child, Bloomberg reports. “The same 16 petitioners, including children from Nigeria, the U.S., and the Marshall Islands, filed a legal complaint with the UN in September against France, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, and Turkey for not doing enough to tackle climate change.”
“Norway must honour its responsibilities to children everywhere,” they said last week in their letter to Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg. “It must demonstrate how a major fossil fuels producer and exporter can transition away from these pollutants, blazing a trail for other fossil fuel-reliant economies to follow.”
Bloomberg notes that Norway is western Europe’s biggest oil and gas producer, while Canada has the world’s third-largest proven oil reserves. Climate Action Network-Canada identifies the country as the world’s tenth-wealthiest, and its ninth-biggest greenhouse gas emitter.
Days later, former Norwegian Labour politician Karl Eirik Schjøtt-Pedersen, now director general of the Norwegian Oil and Gas Association, was one of the “powerful people in Norway’s vast oil industry” decrying a “lack of nuance” in the mounting critique of fossil fuels, Bloomberg writes.
“Thunberg is right that we need to reduce emissions. She’s also right that oil will be less important in the energy mix going forward,” he said. “She’s wrong in saying that we need to stop oil and gas production in order to reach the Paris goals.”
“In high-cost Norway, stable oil policies, including taxes, exploration incentives, and licence awards, have been an important selling point” for fossil development, Bloomberg explains, citing Schjøtt-Pedersen. But “Some of those investments will disappear if uncertainty around the industry’s future grows.” He said US$37 billion in investment could be at risk over the next five years.
At present, Bloomberg notes, fossil fuels “are the lifeblood of the Norwegian economy,” accounting for about half of the country’s exports and creating nearly 200,000 jobs.
“We’re hearing a public debate that raises questions about the framework conditions, and the public debate has become more intense,” Schjøtt-Pedersen told the news agency. “Since we’re seeing an increasing share of estimated investments that haven’t been sanctioned, they are vulnerable to a change in framework conditions and that could lead to some being cancelled. That strengthens the importance of stability.”
Meanwhile, Schjøtt-Pedersen’s own Labour Party, the biggest voting bloc in the national parliament, has withdrawn its support for oil drilling in the exquisitely sensitive Lofoten Islands. And Bloomberg says fossil workers in Norway “have complained about the stigma they feel as their industry gets hit by ‘shaming’.”
As concerns about shaming go, Schjøtt-Pedersen was just a few years and a few decibels behind his counterpart at the European Association for Coal and Lignite (Euracoal), Brian Ricketts, who warned members in the aftermath of the 2015 Paris conference that his industry “will be hated and vilified, in the same way that the slave traders were once hated and vilified”.