Both Climate Leader and Oil Giant? A Norwegian Paradox

While Norway wants to wean its own citizens off fossil fuels, it remains one of the world’s biggest oil producers and is revving up production, almost all of it for export. So even as the country tries to cut emissions and clean up its own carbon ledger at home, it is effectively doing the opposite abroad.

Spurred by attractive state subsidies, the Norwegian oil company Statoil is chasing after new oil and gas fields in the Arctic. Nearly all of the supply is destined for export — and to show up in the carbon emissions of countries that burn Norwegian oil and gas.

There’s a lot of it, too. Peter Erickson, a senior scientist with the Stockholm Environment Institute, a research organization, found that emissions from Norway’s oil exports this year will be 10 times as much as Norway’s domestic carbon emissions.

As governments wrestle over what they should do to keep the planet from heating up to dangerous levels, critics contend that Norway should curb the supply of fossil fuels, rather than just trimming demand among its own people.

“Norway has set out to be a global leader in climate action, yet continued expansion of oil and gas production could eclipse the benefits of Norway’s domestic emission reduction efforts,” Mr. Erickson and his colleague Adrian Down wrote in a recent paper.

It’s one of the problems built into the Paris climate accord that President Trump promises to leave, Mr. Erickson argued: Countries are measured by how much they reduce their own emissions, within their own borders, not by the impact they have on the planet as a whole.

Norway is aiming to shrink its own carbon emissions by 40 percent, exceeding the European Union’s targets. It already generates all its electricity from hydropower. A short-distance electric ferry has started navigating one of the fjords.

But oil and gas are vital to Norway’s economy, representing 12 percent of gross domestic product and more than a third of…

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