in Norway

Norway’s climate pollution: Oil, gas, coal, and carbon trading

A recent article in Bloomberg looks at how Norway is planning to continue its greenhouse gas emissions. “Norway is wagering it will be easier to cut carbon emissions overseas than at home,” writes Bloomberg journalist Mathew Carr.

On 4 February 2015, Norway announced a plan to cut its emissions by 40% below 1990 levels by 2030. Except that Norway expects its emissions to be the same in 2030 as they are in 2015. The “reduction” will take place elsewhere and will be offset by continued emissions in Norway.

Since 1990, Norway’s emissions from oil and gas production have increased by 80%, according to Bloomberg.

Investing in coal

Meanwhile, Norway’s US$868 billion Government Pension Fund Global continues to invest in coal. The manager of the Pension Fund, Norges Bank Investment Management, recently announced a divestment from 53 coal companies.

But when Heffa Schücking of the German NGO urgewald took a closer look at the numbers behind the divestment, she found it to be a lot less impressive than it at first appeared:

“As our 2014 report ‘Dirty & Dangerous’ analyzed the GPF’s previous holdings, we were curious to see which coal companies were dropped and how this affects the Pension Fund’s overall participation in the coal sector. Our first analysis shows that the GPF divested from 53 coal companies, which is one-third of the total number of coal companies we found in the portfolio last year. While this is a laudable first step, the overall result is very disappointing as the GPF’s total investments in the coal industry show only a marginal decrease.”

Schücking points out that while the Pension Fund now invests in fewer coal companies, the Pension Fund’s coal investments have only been reduced by 4.6% since 2013.

Half of the money divested was simply moved to other coal investments. For example, the Pension Fund divested US$92 million from 13 Indian coal companies but increased its investments in the Chinese coal sector by US$94 million.

Norway still has US$9.16 billion invested in coal.

Just add carbon trading

Jens Frølich Holte, a political adviser to the Norwegian Minister for Climate and Environment, told Bloomberg that Norway’s US$370 million a year on forest protection is “not designed” to help Norway comply with emissions reductions targets.

But part of Norway’s rainforest funding goes to the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, which is hell-bent on creating a market for REDD carbon credits.

Bloomberg quotes Holte as saying that,

“Carbon trading can speed up the global transition away from a fossil economy. Trade creates benefits and this is as true for carbon as it is for other commodities.”

Holte’s statement is patent nonsense, as the example of his own country clearly shows. Far from speeding up a transition from burning fossil fuels, carbon trading is the mechanism that allows Norway’s pollution from fossil fuels to continue.

Ten days ago, REDD-Monitor sent Holte some questions about this statement. Within minutes, I got a response from the Ministry of Climate and Environment confirming that they had received my email. As I’m still waiting for Holte’s response, I sent him a reminder today. REDD-Monitor looks forward to posting Holte’s response in full.

UPDATE – 17 April 2015: Holte’s response is available here.

From: Chris Lang
Date: 16 March 2015 at 13:12
Subject: Questions for Jens Frølich Holte on carbon trading

Dear Jens Frølich Holte,

My name is Chris Lang and I run a website called REDD-Monitor.

I read your comment about carbon trading in Bloomberg last week:

    “Carbon trading can speed up the global transition away from a fossil economy,” said Jens Froelich Holte, a political adviser at the Norwegian ministry for climate and environment. “Trade creates benefits and this is as true for carbon as it is for other commodities,”

Could you please explain why you believe that carbon trading can speed up a transition from fossil fuels, particularly given the fact that carbon trading schemes have been operating for many years, without a global reduction in burning fossil fuels.

How do you respond to the argument that the corporations responsible for emissions from fossil fuels buy carbon credits in order to continue polluting, e.g. through coal-fired power plants, thus locking in emissions from fossil fuels for decades into the future?

Please also respond to the argument that carbon trading does not reduce emissions overall – it’s a zero sum game. Emissions may be reduced in one place, but the buyer of carbon credits uses those credits to continue emissions, and the one cancels out the other.

Thanks for your time and I look forward to hearing from you. Please consider your response to be on the record.

Regards, Chris Lang



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  1. Looking forward to the follow up blog on this matter!