The Prime Minister of Norway has insisted that the Scandinavian country continue to practice for oil and gas, ahead of a re-election campaign in which the future of the fossil fuel industry will be intensely debated.
Erna Solberg, in power since 2013 and bidding for an unprecedented third term as a conservative prime minister in Norway, told the Financial Times that oil production in the country was slowing.
But she refused to back down call by the International Energy Agency, the oil watchdog was once much admired in Oslo, for planting all new oil projects to keep climate change under control. She insisted that there was a continuing need for Norwegian oil and gas, also to make hydrogen.
“There is a big change going on, and that will happen anyway. The question is just how fast it will go. We do not intend to accelerate politically,” the prime minister said at a campaign stage in the southern city of Tvedestrand.
The confidence of Norway, the largest oil producer in Western Europe, in oil and gas will likely be a top issue in the national elections scheduled for 13 September.
Solberg, the first center-right leader to serve two full terms in a country that has long been dominated by the center-left Labor party, is lagging behind in opinion polls.
His best hope is to boost center-right voters, including those from two small parties hiding under the 4 per cent support barrier needed to enter parliament, and to hope that some of the leftist groups fail to release that obstacle.
Solberg plans his minority government – which has undergone several changes since 2013, including the departure last year of the populists Party of progress – as a tried and tested choice while the center-left is assailed by skirmishes over potential coalitions.
“One of our biggest challenges before that has been to cooperate on the non-socialist side [centre-right] side. We succeeded, even if it wasn’t perfect, ”he said.
The two main center-left groups – the Labor and the rural center party – both make a claim to the role of prime minister, confusing voters, and say they will cooperate with various center-left groups.
Both the work and the center support the Norwegian oil industry – which includes the largest exploration program of any country in the Arctic – but could be dependent on the support of smaller parties that want to dismantle the largest sector of the Arctic. country.
The Green Party – which is in power in the city of Oslo with Labor – said it would support only one government that has stopped future oil exploration, in line with the IEA recommendation.
Solberg said she believes the election campaign will be “a discussion on the way forward for Norway,” which could help the center-right. Norway’s oil industry could be part of the “green transformation”, he added, while natural gas could play a role in “the future of hydrogen for Europe”.
Industry advocates, including Solberg, have argued that oil producers have the capital needed to invest in renewable energy while oil service companies could change their business models to help install and service offshore wind turbines. .
The center-right is based on Solberg’s personality strength, based on it advertising on home social media and warm personality, against former Labor Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Store, which is considered more formal and rigid.
But her support took a hit in April when she became the first leader in the world to be threatened breaking the Covid-19 rules of his country on its 60th anniversary celebration.
She told the FT in May that it was “absolutely embarrassing”, adding: “To be very honest, if I hadn’t been threatened, the discussion in Norway would have been much more difficult for me”.
Solberg is the only center-right prime minister in the Nordics, and one of the most successful conservative leaders in Europe behind Germany’s outgoing chancellor, Angela Merkel. Solberg put his success at the center-right until he had “an inclusive policy.”
“Yes, you have to have a healthy economy, you have to make sure that you give priority to job creation and competitiveness.” . . but in the transition to new technologies, toward digitalization, that can leave people behind, “he said.” So you have to have an inclusive policy on education and on skills to ensure you get people to work. “.