On June 5, 2015, Norway's legislative body formally approved a plan for the nation's sovereign wealth fund to divest from coal investments, following an announcement from the fund in February. The move will affect 122 companies and sell up to $10 billion worth of investments in coal-related industries. Political compromise led to the approval, with Conservative party politicians focusing on the economic risk of coal-related investments with global climate change agreements in the works.
The Norwegian government approved plans for a controversial mining project that will dump millions of tons of overburden and tailings from Engebø Mountain into Førde Fjord. The mine, operated by Nordic Mining, will extract rutile, a titanium mineral, over a planned 50-year lifetime of the project. Environmental groups, commercial fishing organizations, marine scientists, and political opposition have criticized the government's action, claiming the dumping will harm cod and salmon fisheries, as well as whale and porpoise habitat.
Norway's Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) recently announced that it removed 114 companies from its portfolio in 2014 due to environmental and climate change concerns. The list included 32 coal mining companies along with tar sands operations, cement manufacturers, and gold mines.
Norway is offering new leases for fossil fuel exploration within its Arctic waters for the first time in over 20 years. The move infuses momentum into an energy rush poised to break out between the five countries claiming Arctic resource rights. The leases, mostly in the Barents Sea, have been offered to 43 energy companies, and production licenses could be awarded as early as 2016.
On September 23, the governments of Liberia and Norway announced that they had entered into a deal under which Liberia will become the first nation to completely halt deforestation in exchange for Norwegian development aid. Norway has agreed to pay $150 million in exchange for the halting of deforestation in Liberia by 2020. The deal was announced at the UN Climate Summit in New York. While Liberia’s forests are not as large as other countries’, its forests represent a significant part of the remaining rainforest in West Africa and are a global biodiversity hotspot.
Norway will contribute $180 million in Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) funding to Brazil, even as the nations disagree over who should monitor carbon savings. Payments from Norway now total $670 million, out of $1 billion pledged by 2015, and Brazil's rate of deforestation has fallen nearly 70 percent from historic levels as it reduced the rate of loss by 27 percent from 2011 to 2012. However, the nations' disagreement over who should measure the amount of carbon dioxide absorbed by trees is hampering efforts at forest protection.
Norway's green energy and carbon emission reduction targets are at risk because of low electricity costs and an underfunded subsidy system, according to industry sources. Norway's ambitious plans to cut greenhouse emissions by 30% below 1990 levels by 2020 and to diversify power supplies are unlikely without increased subsidies, according to Andreas Aasheim, an advisor to Norway's wind energy association Norwea, who said that power prices would have to be around $100 per megawatt hour to fuel renewable energy growth.
The Aceh province in Indonesia revoked a controversial palm oil permit issued to a firm accused of breaching a forest clearing ban. "It is important that there is rule of law in business and investing in Aceh, which provides benefits to the community," said the director of the Aceh chapter of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment. Last May, Indonesia agreed to set a two-year moratorium on new permits to clear primary forests and peatlands as part of a $1 billion deal with Norway.
Norway announced plans last Friday to open a new zone for oil and gas activity in the Barents Sea, part of a deal struck by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg and coalition partners to give the oil industry greater access to environmentally sensitive areas. Stoltenberg said that he was looking to grant access within "an environmentally safe framework." The government will conduct an impact assessment, the first step toward opening up the area to drilling, after Russian authorities ratify the sea boundary.
Norway may buy European carbon permits and retire them to achieve its promised cuts in greenhouse gas emissions, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) said last week. "The only way that Norway could achieve what it wants to achieve and overcome its membership of the [European Union emissions trading scheme] is to go into the market, buy permits and cancel them," said Simon Upton, head of the OECD environment directorate.