The signing of the Paris Climate Accord last year is probably the boldest global statement ever made to tackle climate change. And, with much press coverage of how the United States could become the only country in the world not party to the accord, perhaps another nation could become the beacon to light the way. For many, Norway could be that shining example.
Norway is already well-known for its ideas to safeguard the future, such as housing the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, and its national wealth fund. Since the 1990s, this fund has redirected almost $1 trillion of surplus from the lucrative oil sector to cover the cost of Norway’s social programs (although it has vastly diversified its sources of income since its formation). Norway is also well known for its liberal social policies, which in recent years have taken a turn towards environmentalism.
Even the massive sell-off of the wealth fund’s petroleum stocks isn’t genuinely motivated purely by environmental concerns. Instead, this seems to be mainly influenced by concerns over the future of the oil sector, especially follow turbulent times for the global oil prices and the recent aforementioned job-cuts. The sell-off is not even as significant as many would imagine, as these stocks now only account for 6% of the fund’s stockholdings. This ‘environmental’ move is therefore a shallower gesture than it would first appear.
Norway finds itself in a paradoxical situation. On one hand it is pioneering environmental policies, and has developed a system of renewable power that puts the rest of the world to shame. Yet on the other hand it fuels global warming through the mass export of fossil fuels, contrary to its massive domestic success with renewables. Additionally, Norway clearly has plans to continue or even expand its oil sector, despite even its own worries about the future of the industry. It could therefore be said that rather than shrinking its carbon footprint, Norway has simply been exporting it. Which begs the question: is Norway actually looking to help the planet or just to help itself?