Oohs and ahhs filled the room as my brother told my family that he was headed to Norway for his next big adventure. Images of big mountains and equally as big Vikings filled everyone’s heads as we attempted to picture what the next six months of my brother’s life would look like. Our total knowledge of Norway depicted a country built on windmills, whose land’s health matched that of its ski-addicted inhabitants. A promise land of clean air and green initiatives awaited my brother and we couldn’t wait to hear more about it.
When my brother sent a picture of the never-ending, captivating landscape of Norway, the last response he expected was a picture of two plane tickets coming his way. My father and I were flying to him with heads filled with scenic images and stomachs hungry for two very different adventures. Well, my Dad’s stomach was more hungry for cod and a pint. As he was preparing to go on a food excursion, my mind was set on discovering how such an influential country could sustain green infrastructure while still progressing in an industrially focused world. Little did I know that my stomach soon would be turning.
As we hiked through the fjords and ate our way through Stavanger, we ended up stumbling into the “Norsk Oljemuseum”. Seeing as none of us spoke a lick of Norwegian, I literally did not know what I was walking into. After spending hours in the Norwegian Petroleum Museum reading translated plaques, my entire viewpoint of Norway’s relationship with oil and sustainability had shifted. This beautiful image of green Norway and its promises of clean energy was shattered.
"The Nordic countries have a great reputation around the world when it comes to climate and environmental issues. There is no lack of bragging about this. There is no lack of beautiful words. But when it comes to our actual emissions and our ecological footprints per capita - if we include our consumption, our imports as well as aviation and shipping - then it’s a whole other story." -Greta Thunberg (Climate Activist)
Norway was seen as an economic travesty in the early to mid-nineties, with little going for it in many aspects. When oil and mineral deposits were discovered on its continental shelf, however, its history was changed forever. Norway built its economy on fossil fuels and has been increasing its extraction ever since. In what may seem as an attempt for redemption, modern Norway currently runs its electricity mainly on hydroelectricity and is attempting to be “carbon neutral” by 2050. As impressive as this may seem, much of this progress is merely a mask.
While Norway may not use much of its oil, it still makes a substantial profit of billions of dollars by selling the oil it harvests. Since the seventies, selling oil has contributed roughly 1,527,400,000,000.00 US dollars to Norway’s GDP. This profit greatly benefits the country as well as its welfare, while simultaneously causing 500 million tons of emissions to be generated by its exports of oil and gas. So how have they been getting away with it for so long while maintaining a green reputation?
Countries are given carbon emission limits known as credits. If a country has spare credits at the end of a year, they can sell these credits to countries who might go over their limits. So, Norway can continue to increase its oil exports and CO2 emissions without punishment as long as they can continue to afford these credits. This practice is known as carbon offsetting and is highly criticized by many environmental NGO’s, including Greenpeace and The World Wildlife Fund.
Countries all around the world look up to places like Norway to lead us in the Green Movement to a healthier and happier, but how are we supposed to follow them if we can’t even trust them? Sustainable development of third world countries while industrializing is a key and present issue in the green movement. Leading countries are supposed to be guiding these areas into better practices in the future, which can be difficult when the supposed “best” are cheating the game. Worldwide movements to mitigate climate change should be led by countries who are truly and honestly approaching their emission issues, which is hard to find nowadays. To make global change we must first begin with countries like Norway and work our way out.