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Norway’s Climate Policy: Don’t Think of the Elephant!



All Norwegian governments in the twenty-first century, left and right, have made climate action an important element of their diplomacy and domestic policy, while recently some political parties have even made climate neutrality and decarbonisation the core of their electoral campaign messages. Norway has played the role of an advocate for international climate action, for instance of rainforest protection. Moreover, government incentives such as tax levies have been instrumental in the spectacular expansion of electric vehicles. However, despite the self-promoted image of a climate policy champion abroad, Norway’s efforts to cut domestic greenhouse gas emissions have been modest since signing the Kyoto Protocol in December 1997. Norway is exporting oil and gas that cause massive emissions, but the significance of the fossil fuel sector for the country makes it difficult to find alternatives and seriously consider rapid phase out. That said, a debate on the future of the oil and gas sector is ongoing. Whilst Norway’s point of departure in an imminent transition is rather favourable, the lack of progress is due to insufficient political leadership and vision. Norwegian decision makers need to be bold in their choice of whether the transition’s main goal should be managing decline in the oil and gas sector or managing climate-related economic risks. Meanwhile, in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the EU’s decision for a drastic reduction in dependence on Russian fossil fuels, the lifetime of Norway’s oil and gas production could well be extended by a decade or more. It is not unreasonable to expect that the last molecule of fossil methane burned in Europe before it switches to hydrogen and biogas—is going to come from Norway.


  • Climate
  • Governance