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Norway looks set to replace Tory government amid oil debate, preliminary results show

The current government, led by Prime Minister Erna Solberg, the longest-serving Norwegian prime minister, has refused to end fossil fuel production, predicting its continuation beyond 2050.

The campaign period has been heavily focused on the country’s climate and fossil fuel production, following the release of a damning UN climate science report and a heat wave that has burned much of the country during the summer.

The first results are not definitive, but in Norway they give a fairly reliable picture of the real results.

Projections by Norwegian public broadcaster NRK TV based on partial results showed the Labor Party on track to win around 25% of the vote, which translates to around 48 seats out of the 169 seats in parliament, suggesting that an alliance center-left is likely. to replace the Conservative-led coalition.

The Labor Party, led by former Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre, calls for a gradual transition from fossil fuels. However, he will likely need the support of the Green Party, or another small climate-friendly group, which has campaigned for a phase-out of the country’s huge oil and gas industries.

“We have three green parties in Norway – the Socialist Party, the Liberal Party and the Green Party,” said Lars-Henrik Paarup Michelsen, director of the Norwegian Climate Foundation..

“Polls indicate that our next government will be led by the Labor Party. However, Labor will need the votes of at least one Green party to secure a majority in Parliament.

“Everyone expects climate policy to be toughened after the election,” he added.

The Socialists and the Greens both recorded gains in the election, according to preliminary results. The Greens were on the verge of securing seven seats in Parliament, a major gain from 2017 when they only had one. Socialists appeared on track to secure 13 seats, two more than in last election

“If this is close to the end result, it is a big increase for the Greens, it is a historic result for them and it will give them a much bigger platform,” said Fay Farstad, senior researcher at CICERO, a Norwegian institute for interdisciplinary climate. research.

However, Farstad added that the result is more nuanced, given the gains posted by the Center Party. “They support Norway’s climate goals and agreements, but where they differ is on the issue of CO2 tax increases, they have run on the platform to reject it,” he said. -she adds.

Norway is Europe’s largest oil producer and the world’s third largest exporter of natural gas. Even with political will, phasing out fossil fuels is unlikely to be rapid.

Norwegians enjoy a high quality of life, in large part thanks to its $ 1.1 trillion sovereign wealth fund – the largest in the world – which invests the revenues of the oil industry. Its website displays a real-time value of the fund, so Norwegians can marvel at their seemingly ever-increasing wealth.

But as the world becomes increasingly aware of the climate crisis and the transitions to renewable energy sources, there has been a concerted push in the country against further exploration for fossil fuels.

“There have been many debates over the past year and a half or two, but when the [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] The report arrived in August, just as the campaign was gaining momentum, it really put climate change at the center of attention, ”Ole Jacob Sending, research director at think tank, told CNN. Norwegian Institute of International Affairs.

Norway looks set to replace Tory government amid oil debate, preliminary results show

While climate change itself is not a debate in Norway – all major political parties recognize that climate change is real and already happening – the question of how to deal with it is.

“The climate is now one of the main fault lines in Norwegian politics (…) there are disagreements over the best policies and the urgency to act,” Sending said.

“It’s less of an elephant in the room now… there is increased recognition that Norway has a challenge.”

Norway’s approach to the climate crisis has been paradoxical for some time. It has pledged to become carbon neutral by 2030, well ahead of many other rich countries. The US, UK and EU all hope to reach net zero by mid-century. The country also offers generous subsidies for electric cars and invests heavily in renewable energy sources.

But the oil and gas sector remains crucial to the Norwegian economy, employing 200,000 people – between 6% and 7% of its workforce – and accounting for 14% of GDP and 41% of exports.

While scientists say emissions must be halved during this decade, largely by phasing out fossil fuels, Norway has not set a date to even end oil and gas exploration. gas.

Norway’s oil directorate said earlier this year that it expects oil production to continue to increase over the next several years, from 1.7 million barrels per day in 2020 to slightly more of 2 million per day in 2025.