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– The world is watching what Norway does in Lofoten

If the richest country in the world won’t put renewable resources like fish before oil and gas, who else will? This is the question posed by climate philosopher Øyvind Stokke at the international conference on supply side climate policy in Lofoten, Norway.

Stig Brøndbo 09.08.2017 00:41   (Sist oppdatert: 09.08.2017 15:07)

Climate philosopher at UiT The Arctic University of Norway, Øyvind Stokke, belives that Norwegian politicians must take seriously Aristotle´s insight into the fundamental role exemplars do play in moral conduct. Foto: Stig Brøndbo
Associate Professor Berit Kristoffersen is pleased that so many scientists from all over the world have engaged in the debate about cuts in the production of fossil energy. Foto: Stig Brøndbo
Research Director at CICERO, Guri Bang (t.v), Associate Professor at UiT, Berit Kristoffersen and Researcher Bård Lahn at CICERO, organized the climate conference in Lofoten together with SEI (Stockholm Environmental Institute). Foto: Stig Brøndbo
The Arctic seas surrounding the Lofoten islands in Norway contains some of the most valuable fish stocks in the Atlantic Ocean. One of the world's major seasonal fisheries takes place here from late January until mid-April, and the area has been the most important fishing ground in Norway for thousands of years. 

But below seabed there might be an abundance of oil and gas, and the archipelago group is once again at center for a national debate of whether or not to open for commercial offshore oil and gas production.

Global responsibility

– Norway is not only a big producer of fossil energy, we also like to consider ourselves as environmentally friendly and up front when it comes to addressing the climate issue. So the world is now looking towards Lofoten to see what we decide. I think that we not only have a local responsibility in relation to fisheries, tourism and jobs. As an oil and gas producer we also have global climate responsibility – the question is whether we are willing to take it, says Øyvind Stokke, Associate Professor in Philosophy at UiT – The Arctic University of Norway.

Confronting the supply-side
On August 4th Stokke presented his thoughts on global climate justice at the conference Confronting the supply-side of fossil fuels: Politics and economics. The conference in Svolvær, Lofoten, gathered researchers from all over the world to discuss if cuts in the production of fossil energy might have a bigger impact on the climate than a sole focus on emission cuts. For 30 years the political focus on saving our planet´s climate has been on emission cuts, and according to the researchers at the Lofoten conference, this focus has failed.
– Our goal with this conference is to launch new debates trying to find alternative ways to meet the climate challenges, says Guri Bang, research director at Center for International Climate Research (CICERO). CICERCO was co-funding the conference together with Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and UiT – The Arctic University of Norway.

Close connection
– We need to change the way we talk about the climate issue, and we must stop talking  about climate goals no one cares to fight for. Everybody agrees that the Two-degree target is important, still we open new coalmines, new oil wells and increase gas production as if there is no connection between this and the Two-degree target. We need to change our rhetoric, Richard Denniss from The Australia Institute stated at the Lofoten conference. 

The climate philosopher Øyvind Stokke agrees with Denniss.
– Ever since the 1990s the relation between the use of fossil energy, climate emissions and the Earths health has been well known. Still Norway has increased the production of oil and gas as if the climate problem does not exist. It is a great paradox – and very disappointing, the philosopher states.

Arctic Centre for Sustainable enery
Stokke is a member of the Arctic Centre for Sustainable Energy - ARC at the UiT – The Arctic University of Norway, and in his presentation at the Lofoten conference, he referred to research made by Stockholm Environment Institute stating that Norway has a moral responsibility to contribute to the reduction of climate emission ten times its population. This is due to the economic capacity the massive oil and gas production has created for the country during the last decades.

Historic dimensions
The question about global climate justice was an important part of Stokke´s presentation at the Lofoten conference, questions he states have roots going back all the way to Plato, Aristotle and Socrates.
– Aristotle discussed principles of distributive justice in his political philosophy, and Norwegian politicians must take seriously his insight into the fundamental role exemplars do play in moral conduct. By not opening Lofoten to offshore oil and gas production, Norway may lead by example and show the G20-countries that climate issues are important enough to make sacrifices. But this would require courage – another virtue of great importance to the Greeks, Stokke says.

Long term
– This fall there is a parliament election in Norway. As one of the richest country in the world with an ambition to be a leader on climate governance and at the same time maintaining high production levels, important climate decisions will have to be made. Will Norway be the first country to leave oil in the ground because of combined environmental and climate considerations?  The rest of the world is watching what Norway decides for Lofoten, says Associate Professor at UiT – The Arctic University of Norway, Berit Kristoffersen. She is very satisfied with the panels, the presentations and the discussions at the Lofoten conference – and hopes there will be an international follow-up conference in 2018.
– It is important that researchers come together to discuss publications and research in progress. It is also important to discuss potential climate policy solutions when the toolkit needs to be reconsidered due to the Paris agreement and the new knowledge on the carbon budget. I hope our focus on the supply-side of fossil fuels can mark the beginning of a framework that might contribute to long term climate solutions, says Kristoffersen.

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