As It Happens

Labour politician says climate crisis swung Norway's election results to the left

A record-breaking hot summer, among other factors, made climate change the top issue for Norwegian voters in the country's general election and they responded by ousting the incumbent Conservative Party in favour of several centre-left parties.

As left-leaning parties try to form governing coalition, Labour Party says transition from oil takes time

Espen Barth Eide, the energy, climate and environment spokesperson for Norway's Labour Party, said they hope to form a government that can more gradually transition the country away from oil production and into green technology. (Yiannis Kourtoglou/Reuters)
A record-breaking hot summer, among other factors, made climate change the top issue for Norwegian voters in the country's general election. They responded by ousting the incumbent Conservative Party in favour of several centre-left parties. 6:41

A record-breaking hot summer and the country's reliance on the oil industry, among other factors, made climate change the top issue for Norwegian voters in the country's general election and they responded by ousting the incumbent Conservatives in favour of several centre-left parties.

Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg, who led the country for two four-year terms, conceded defeat on Monday night.

Jonas Gahr Støre, the leader of the Labour Party, started talks on Tuesday to form a governing coalition with the Socialist Left and the Centre Party. Together, those three parties got 100 seats out of 169 total in the Stortinget, Norway's Parliament.

Espen Barth Eide, the energy, climate and environment spokesperson for the Labour Party, said that the latest report from the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, with harrowing predictions for the future, was a huge factor in the election.

"That came in just as we were starting the campaign. So it became the dominant theme," he told As It Happens host Carol Off.

"The argument that we made was that we seriously need to address climate change. We need to reduce emissions. We need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. We need to have a more circular economy," said Eide.

The three candidates for Norway's prime minister Erna Solberg from the Conservatives, Jonas Gahr Stoere from Labour Party and Trygve Slagsvold Vedum from the Centre Party attend a debate in central Oslo, Norway August 9, 2021. (Gwladys Fouche/Reuters)

"But that change needs to be managed in such a way that it's not the people at the end of the table, as it were, the poor people who have to take the largest burden. So we need to think about the distributional effect of climate policies."

However, a big challenge for the governing coalition will be figuring out how to transition Norway's oil industry, which directly employs more than five per cent of the country's workforce, and is responsible for over 40 per cent of exports.

The Green Party, which picked up two more seats this election to take three seats in total, is calling for an end to oil and gas exploration by 2035. However, Eide said the party did not have enough seats to be invited to join the governing coalition.

"In this coalition, I think we will find an agreement that we don't need to decree the end of oil as by a date," he said.

"The Green Party very much wanted just to say, let's have an end date for production and exploration. We said let's try to hit the future markets as well as we can, try to estimate where it will be in 10, 20 years."

You need to try to gear the economy or shift the economy in such a way that you make it increasingly attractive ... to make the future-oriented green choice.- Norwegian MP Espen Barthe Eide

Instead, said Eide, the focus will be on retraining oil workers and investing in green technology, such as "hydrogen production and use of ocean wind, carbon capture and storage, development of battery technology, green shipping and so on." 

"So you need to try to gear the economy or shift the economy in such a way that you make it increasingly attractive ... in people's private life, or in business, that you actually make it more attractive to make the future-oriented green choice," he said. 

But the transition is not done overnight, he cautioned.

"It's not done just by turning off a production line. It's about strategically investing in changing industry, agriculture, fishing, transport, buildings, energy distribution to homes. And that transition actually [has] literally millions of elements in it."


Written by Andrea Bellemare with files from Associated Press. Interview produced by Chris Harbord. 


MORE FROM THIS EPISODE

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now