Norway election winners start coalition talks with climate focus

Centre-left opposition parties enter discussions a day after they beat the incumbent Conservatives.

Norwegian Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Stoere answers questions from reporters outside his home, a day after parliamentary election in Oslo, Norway, September 14, 2021 [NTB/Terje Bendiksby via Reuters]

Norway’s centre-left opposition parties are starting coalition talks to try to form a majority government after winning a decisive parliamentary election victory, with climate change expected to be central in discussions.

Labour leader Jonas Gahr Stoere must address voters’ concerns over global warming and a widening wealth gap while ensuring any transition away from oil production – and the jobs it creates – is gradual.

Stoere’s goal is to convince both the rural-based Centre Party and the mostly urban Socialist Left to join him, which would give his cabinet 89 seats, four more than what is needed for a majority in the 169-seat assembly.

“I believe it’s worth attempting to form a majority government,” Stoere told reporters after votes were counted late on Monday.

He must persuade the Centre and the Socialists to compromise on policies ranging from oil and private ownership to European Union (EU) outsider Norway’s relations with the bloc.

In particular, Stoere must persuade them to compromise on energy policy, including where to let oil firms explore for hydrocarbons while also cutting Norway’s climate emissions in line with the Paris Agreement.

“The likely compromise has to do with restricting exploration, and the less explored and matured areas are easier to stop exploration in,” said Baard Lahn, a researcher at Oslo-based climate think-tank CICERO.

“Also the industry has indicated they are less interested in those areas at the moment. That’s a possible outcome, but exactly what that will look like, there are many possibilities.”

Norway produces approximately 4 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, accounting for more than 40 percent of export revenues.

But most major parties also believe oil will play a smaller part over time and hope the engineering know-how of oil firms can be transferred to renewable energy, including offshore wind.

“I think that the new coalition will increase the work on climate issue as both the IEA (International Energy Agency) and IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) report underlined the sense of emergency the world is facing, stating a code red,” said Thina Margrethe Saltvedt, Nordea Bank’s chief analyst for sustainable finance.

Conservative Prime Minister Erna Solberg said she would step down as soon as a new government is ready, with a cabinet headed by Stoere potentially taking office in mid-October.

Source: Reuters