The Climate Change threat as a Foreign Policy Strategy for Norway

by Despina Lytra,

Norway ranks usually first or in the top countries in rankings from various Organizations in prosperity, development and citizen satisfaction.  In 2019, it ranked first in UNDP’s ranking for the Human Development Index (UNDP Human Development Index Ranking, 2019) and in the Inequality-adjusted Index (UNDP Inequality-adjusted Human Development Index, 2019). Norway is a unitary sovereign state with a constitutional monarchy and due to its geographical position, the environment plays an important role in the country’s history and development. The climate crisis threat, on the other hand, serves as Norway’s contemporary and supplementary foreign policy strategy and as an opportunity to expand and promote its international scope and bilateral relations.

Norway and Gabon on September 22, 2019, signed an agreement with the goal of protecting the rich forests of the African country. The 10-year deal includes the payment of $150 million from Norway to Gabon as a means to fight the rapid deforestation and reduce CO2 emissions. The rapid deforestation of Gabon is due to the increase of demand of the kevazingo, a reddish tree that is used to manufacture luxury furniture in Asia. For every certified ton of carbon reduction, $10 will be transferred to the country of Gabon. The deal is part of the Central African Forest Initiative (CAFI), launched in 2015 by the UN, to promote the cooperation of European and African parties. (Dahir, 2019). Norway, though, already in 2014, had offered $150 million to Libya to battle its own deforestation. Nevertheless, the political agreements made, have not been met without any controversy. Cruz (2017) reports that Norway has also contributed to the western imperialism expansion, especially in underdeveloped countries. He reports that Norway was involved in the 2011 bombing of Libya and the Norwegian oil company Statoil has started since oil extractions in the country.

Indonesia, who has the world’s third-biggest tropical forest and is the biggest palm oil producer, also just cashed its first payment of $20 million after the completion of a successful first period of the agreement between Norway and Indonesia. The CO2 emissions dropped since 2017 and the equivalent of $4.8 million tonnes of avoided emissions will be deposited to the Indonesian government (Taylor, 2019).  In 2019, Myanmar also had the first tangible positive environmental results from the Norway Myanmar Environmental Cooperation 2015-2018. The bilateral Programme intended to strengthen “Myanmar’s institutional framework for managing the environment, and deepening Myanmar’s participation in, and compliance with, related international conventions” (Norad, Review of Norway – Myanmar Environmental Cooperation 2015-2018, 2019, p. iv).  Norway provided NOK 96 million in total to Myanmar in grants via the Programme after Norway’s assistance was officially asked by the Myanmar government in 2012. What is worth mentioning is that the environmental bilateral cooperation has exceeded its expectations, especially when the Programme laid its foundations for the National Wetland Policy and Strategic Actions initiatives, lacking the rudimentary national policies on behalf of the state of Myanmar. (Norad, 2019). The Norway – Myanmar agreement is for the latter the “first policy directed towards wetlands, addressing an important gap. The policy, therefore, is foundational work and comprises part of Myanmar’s institutional framework for climate and environment” (Norad, 2019, p. 15).

Norway since 2017 has turned its interest towards China. The Belt and Road Initiative, the Brexit, the colliding interest of various counties for the Arctic have turned Norway to look at the Asian giant for cooperation. The Norwegian Institute of International Affairs- NUPI marks that the two countries have started their dialogue especially in the prism of SDGs and of the trade agreements (NUPI, 2017).  Furthermore, India is also asking Norway for assistance in the matter of shipping and ocean management. The National Institute for Transforming India visited Norway in October 2019, in order to expand its knowledge and gain insight on how to efficiently support India’s fast maritime economy alongside the necessary implementation of policies for environmental sustainability and protection (Chaudhury, 2019).

The challenge that Norway is facing towards its environmental foreign strategy, is Brazil. The tension concerns the largest tropical rainforest, Amazon, and the dispute between the two countries threatens the “EU/Mercosur Latin American trading bloc agreement” (Brandford and Borges, 2019). Bolsonaro, who was elected in Brazil with the support of the agricultural lobby, favors the development in the Amazon, like for example, the prospective constructions of dams. He has threatened to withdraw from the Paris Agreement and the Environmental Ministry of Brazil declared that it would close the committee for anti-deforestation of the Amazon. In response to that Norway cut its $33 million aid to Brazil and Germany froze its own $39 million contributions respectively (Lopes, 2019 · Brandford and Borges, 2019). The Amazon Fund was launched in 2008 aiming to “prevent, monitor and combat deforestation, as well as to promote the preservation and sustainable use in the Brazilian Amazon” (Brandford and Borges, 2019). Norway is the main sponsor of the Fund, 94%,  following Germany with 5% and Petrobas, the Brazilian state oil company, 1%.  In August of 2019, Norway decided to withdraw its contribution while President Bolsonaro responded sarcastically, that Norway is not entitled to criticize Brazil when Norway itself is involved in whale hunting. Mauricio Santoro, professor of International Relations remarked that the denial of the Brazilian government to climate change could have a tremendous impact on the economy of the country, as well as, could cause the isolation of Brazil from international agreements and alliances (Brandford and Borges, 2019).  If the Amazon is destroyed and Brazil does not find an alternative partner, its largest resource could be impacted so massively that the consequences in its economy would be critical.

 Lastly, Norway’s environmental policy remains in the same line of preservation and protection when analogous policies need to be applied domestically. In April 2019, the parliament withdraws its support to Equinor ASA for oil exploration in the Lofoten islands in the Arctic. The Norwegian government has made a swift towards investments in renewable energy sources. It is using its $1 trillion oil fund to become independent from fossil fuels, initiating a process where many companies in the country invest in “fossil fuel divestment strategies” (Cockburn, 2019). Furthermore, Norway in October 2019, invested an additional $71 million to the development of Carbon Capture Storage (CCS) technology, through which the CO2 is liquefied and transported by ships. Then,it can be piped out to the North Sea and pumped some 3,000 meters (about 10,000 feet) down into porous rock formations” (Bevanger,2018). This process could transform the way countries manage their infrastructure.“According to NUPI’s Øverland, the most positive implication of a new energy regime is that we will be moving towards a more peaceful and democratic world” (Isbrekken, 2019).

 

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