Chronicle: At the same time Norway implements small, realistic cuts, we can build an international coalition to phase out oil.
Parliamentary elections of 2021 were not the climate elections many had hoped for. Despite strong historical support for change, it is unlikely that there will be major changes this time around. Of course, the Labor-New Socialist Party government must be given the opportunity to achieve ecology. But it is inevitable that the slogan “develop rather than deconstruct” is more appropriate to fend off attacks from the Millennium Development Goals than to adopt a new oil and climate policy.
Therefore, environmental parties must think again before the upcoming elections.
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Think long term!
To an outsider, it must seem paradoxical that nothing is happening in the Norwegian oil system anymore. With the inclement weather and full UN concern, it looked as if “everyone” understood the problem. Environmental parties set the agenda, and oil and climate policy were a major topic of television broadcasting. The feeling that “something is happening now” has not only stopped among environmental activists, but has also spread to the government. When Erna Solberg and the ministers left and announced changes to the oil tax, it was very likely that the violent green wave would subside.
The lack of significant changes should be a cause for concern for environmental parties. They are, of course, on their way to assessing the election campaign. But they must do more than that. Ahead of parliamentary elections in 2025, a robust oil policy with real climate impact will be absolutely necessary to satisfy doubtful center-right voters. Therefore, some long-term strategies must be developed, and how Norway can ensure the greatest possible climate impact from self-imposed oil cuts must be determined.
Skeptics often forget that phasing out Norwegian oil also has political and diplomatic payoffs. As a rule, it is based on the worst possible version of a Norwegian oil spill, a scenario in which Norway shuts down its taps overnight, while Russia and Saudi Arabia take over. What environmental actors must demonstrate at the next crossroads is a scenario in which Norway in the long run operates internationally and engages other countries in effective production cuts.
This would have significant political benefits, as well as amplifying the impact of our own cuts. What does such a plan look like? This is a suggestion.
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Step by Step
First, we send diplomats at the State Department to set the mood. What other oil producers might consider joining mutual agreements on production cuts? This is done with complete transparency, and we need to talk to everyone, including Russia and Saudi Arabia. The big producers are unlikely to take the proposal seriously, but if we’re lucky, we’ll be left with a club of smaller producers. Germany and Denmark have already adopted similar phase-out policies and are likely to be able to support joint measures.
After a fixed exploration period, perhaps for a year, we introduce a general exploration shutdown at prime time. Production can continue, but all new explorations on the Norwegian shelf have been halted. Public relations will be important here. Perhaps the Prime Minister and the Secretary-General of the United Nations can get out in a boat and sprinkle flowers over the newly closed research blocks? The oil producers we surveyed should be able to see that we mean business. So the exploration station should be very real and not cluttered with creative bookkeeping and clever tricks.
At this point, the more this happens, the more serious climate change will be. Provided we are the first, Norway will reap massive international recognition with this move. Even the biggest oil producers, with their missed climate goals, will have no choice but to applaud the Norwegian initiative. We should take full advantage of this wave.
While the search is off, we’re investigating again. This time to reduce mass production binding. This should be limited, perhaps to 5 percent of annual production. The target should be edible enough for more countries to realistically consider joining. Some may think 5 percent is unambitious, but the action will initially be about rolling the ball. By many countries, such a limited reduction will have serious consequences. Energy prices will rise and the obvious constraints on oil production will push energy companies into the renewable energy sector.
There is no doubt that some oil will replace countries that do not participate in the agreements. But far from everything, especially if many large manufacturers support the cut. The point is that Norway, at the same time we are implementing small, realistic cuts to our production, can build an international coalition to phase out oil. If we succeed, it will leave us an invaluable tool for the future.
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You must start now
But can Norway achieve all this? Okay. Norway is a small country, and this is undoubtedly a diplomatic weightlifter. But with good diplomatic relations and a lot of money registered, we already have a good starting point.
In addition, Norwegian diplomats have considerable experience in environmental diplomacy. Conserving rainforests internationally has always been our biggest climatic metric. Earlier this year, we were able to get to the Security Council with a global campaign against plastic at sea. In addition to all the climatic peaks and the long experience of oil bureaucrats with OPEC.
We can really do that. But it requires a creative plan. Environmental parties should put them aside now.
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