In the national elections Monday 13th September, climate plays a major role for many Norwegians. But drilling for oil, an important national source of income, also continues to enjoy strong support.
Norway faces a national dilemma, says Morton Hanssen (21). “We like to present ourselves as the green country with our clean energy, large numbers of electric cars and the way we take care of our nature. But we are also one of the largest oil producers in the world.”
Hanssen (21) is Vice-President of the Norwegian youth organization Nature & Youth. The NGO (approx 6.000 members, all under the age of 25) is spreading across the country with projects and demonstrations for nature conservation and lobbies parties and governments for a firm approach to climate change and to stop oil and gas drilling.
The Norwegians are electing a new parliament and in recent months the question of how to deal with the oil drilling has become the main election theme. Party programs from left to right are rife with terms like det grønne skifte (the green shift) and the theme dominates almost every debate. Polls also show that young voters give the most weight to climate policy this year in their choice of party.
Hanssen finds the fact that so much attention is being paid to the oil sector in these elections is not only positive, but also special. “When we talked about the environment in Norway in recent decades, it was always about climate change or about oil. But those two subjects have hardly been linked until now.” The publication of alarming reports on the effects of fossil fuel use, such as that of the IPCC earlier this year, has forced parties to take a stand this year.
Drilling still widely supported in Norway
The choice for parties is not as easy as you might think. Despite the worrying reports, an recent poll in August showed that 55 percent of Norwegians are still in favor of continuing to drill for oil. Even among young people there is currently no majority in favor of stopping oil production.
This has to do with the wealth that oil provides to Norway (the thirteenth country in the ranking of oil-producing countries): the country earns about 10 billion euros annually in oil revenues. Since the 1990s, it has built up a state fund of more than a thousand billion euros with oil production: spread over a population of 5.4 million people, this is an enormous amount that can benefit generations. Another factor is that there are approximately two hundred thousand Norwegians working in the oil sector.
The major parties therefore do not dare to shut down oil production in the near future. Incumbent Prime Minister Erna Solberg's Conservative Party (who is currently second in the polls) says it will continue production "as long as it is profitable". The Workers' Party under Jonas Gahr Støre (who is up in the polls) also wants to continue drilling for the time being, in its own words "to preserve jobs". The third party, the agricultural Center Party, is not concerned with climate at all. Hanssen: “The only thing green about them is their logo.”
“The policies of the major parties are pretty much the same,” he sighs. Still, according to him, it makes a big difference which party becomes the largest. “If the Conservatives win and we get a right-wing government again, our work will intensify and youth anger will increase. Over the past eight years [under Solberg] we've seen the deadline come closer and closer with nothing being done."
If the Workers' Party wins, it is likely to form a government with the Center Party and one of the green parties such as the Environmental Party Greens or the Socialist Left Party, which are in favor of stopping oil drilling. “If they come into government, there will be more hope.”
Data center Industry
There are also developments outside the parliament building that make Hanssen hopeful. For example, there is mounting scientific evidence that refutes the economic arguments to continue drilling for oil, such as the dreaded economic dip after drilling stations shut down. And 'Nature & Youth' is increasingly seeing results from its actions.
Another example is the Norwegian data center industry: using green energy is the norm and the updated Norwegian government strategy for data centers emphasizes that building new data centers should take into account green energy use and re-use of waste heat.
The Ministry of Local Government and Modernisation will talk about the ambition to make Norway the world’s most sustainable data center nation at the upcoming Datacenter Forum Norway, 5th October in Oslo. Click here to register for the event.