in Norway

How Norway’s oil and gas plans undermine the Paris Agreement

Norway’s parliament recently approved a plan to become carbon neutral by 2030. But it’s obvious really that Norway’s claims to be addressing climate change are meaningless if at the same time the country continues drilling for oil and gas. A new report from Oil Change International documents Norway’s cognitive dissonance on climate change.

The report, titled “The Sky’s Limit Norway: Why Norway Should Lead the Way in a Managed Decline of Oil and Gas Extraction”, can be downloaded here. Written by Hannah McKinnon, Greg Muttitt, and Kelly Trout of Oil Change International, the report is published together with Greenpeace, Norwegian Church Aid, Nature and Youth, Friends of the Earth Norway, and WWF.

In September 2016, Oil Change International and partners published a report looking at what was needed to meet the Paris Climate Goals. The report found that there is enough oil, gas, and coal in already-producing fields and mines to warm the plant’s climate by more than 2°C if it were burned. The report concluded that meeting the Paris target requires an end to new fossil fuel development.

Irrational behaviour? From Norway?

Oil Change International’s latest report is part of a series of national briefings that apply the same methodology to individual countries. The report argues that Norway’s behaviour on climate change is “irrational”:

In the case of Norway, the country has been a vocal advocate for climate action in international forums and has made specific policy progress in areas such as electrification of transportation. Yet there is significant cognitive dissonance as the country fails to address the impact of its oil and gas extraction, instead facilitating new production that is incompatible with global carbon budgets, and indeed undermines global efforts to reduce emissions. Just this year, the government offered a record number of 93 blocks for oil and gas exploration in the Barents Sea. This is uncharacteristically irrational behavior for Norway.

Oil Change International’s report clearly and concisely highlights the problem. If Norway were serious about addressing climate change it would stop drilling for oil and gas. As Oil Change International points out,

To keep from burning more fossil fuels than our atmosphere can withstand, we must stop digging them out of the ground.

But REDD-Monitor isn’t convinced that the Norwegian government’s irrational behaviour is particularly uncharacteristic. Ten years of observing Norway throw billions of dollars at deforestation, through a REDD mechanism that has failed to achieve anything much, suggests that Norway’s government is about as rational as a box of frogs.

Climate neutrality through offsets

Norway’s plans to become “climate neutral” by 2030 rely heavily on offsets. The parliamentary motion states that, “climate neutrality can be achieved through the EU emissions trading market, international cooperation on emissions reductions, emissions trading and project-based cooperation.”

And Vidar Helgesen, Norway’s climate minister Vidar Helgesen told the Guardian,

“It is incumbent on me to underline that this proposal from parliament is really about carbon offsets. It is not about national emissions reductions beyond what we will contribute, through the EU process.”

And exported oil doesn’t count

When Norway talks about becoming climate neutral, it is only referring to greenhouse gas emissions in Norway. But as Oil Change International notes, “Through its oil and gas exports, Norway is exporting 10 times more emissions than the country produces at home.” Norway is the seventh largest exporter of emissions in the world.

Norway’s proposed expansion of new oil and gas fields would far exceed the emissions reductions needed to meet the Paris Agreement target.

Oil Change International outlines three possible future scenarios:

  1. Managed decline: We succeed in restricting new fossil fuel supply projects and carefully managing the decline of the fossil industry over time, while planning for a just transition for workers and communities. This path gives us a likely chance of achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement and avoiding the worst impacts of climate change.
  2. Unmanaged decline: We allow further fossil fuel development to continue, but eventually manage to limit emissions to within carbon budgets. Meeting the Paris Goals would become much harder and would lead to a sudden and dramatic shutdown of fossil fuel production, stranding assets, damaging economies, and harming workers and communities reliant on the energy sector.
  3. Climate catastrophe: We fail to restrict emissions. New long-lived fossil fuel infrastructure locks us into a high carbon future that puts the Paris targets out of reach. Climate change reaches dangerous levels, causing compounding, irreparable harm for people and ecosystems around the world.

The report concludes that Norway should:

  • Freeze further leases or permits for new oil and gas extraction projects or transportation infrastructure that would incentivize additional exploration.
  • Publicly commit to managing the decline of the fossil fuel industry within the Paris goals of 1.5 degrees Celsius or well below 2 degrees Celsius.
  • Redefine global climate leadership by setting a global precedent to manage the decline of existing production in line with climate safe limits while ensuring a just transition for affected workers and communities.


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  1. You know, I’ve always wondered what if tropical countries used their funds obtained through deforestation to save the handful of very endangered wolves in Norway?