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An effort for the zero-emission target

The globe is burning. What must be done?
Forfatter: Heikki Holmås
Forlag: Res Publica (Norge)

CLIMATE: Heikki Holmås describes zero emission targets in a new book, where the climate crisis is solved with taxes and emission requirements, plenty of green power and technology. But at what price?

Heikki Holmås is a former parliamentary representative for SV and Minister of Development Aid (2012–2013). Both as a young environmentalist and as long as he was active in national politics, he was opposed to Norwegian EU membership, but in his book The globe is burning He acknowledges the role of the EU "as the strongest driver in the world for a shift towards zero emissions". In his journey towards solutions for how Norway in nine years' time can become a zero-emission country, he highlights the EU's climate goals and climate policy.

"Steering towards zero emissions in 2030 is also the best way to get out of the divide we stand in as an oil nation, where we on the one hand promote ambitious climate policy and on the other hand push the cause of climate problems, namely fossil oil and gas." , writes Holmås. He may feel a little on his own, and not just in relation to the EU:

  1. April 2021 he got a new role in Multiconsult as Chief Sustainability Officer, with responsibility for «realization of the company's sustainability ambitions» after working with onshore and offshore wind in the company's wind power
    . Multiconsults nature section shall objectively provide advice to NVE on the «natural consequences of wind power development».

Holmås is also a board member of Norwea, an industry organization that works to promote Norwegian renewable energy production: 130 members, such as Multiconsult and other consulting companies, a number of law firms, small municipalities and not least wind power companies such as Zephyr. The latter is involved in the controversial development on Haramsøya.

That large parts of the climate crisis' solution consists of investing in renewable energy comes as no surprise. But The globe is burning is first and foremost about emissions – and emission cuts we should have taken.

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Did we reach the climate goal – or not?

Holmås writes about CO2emissions (he deliberately fails to mention other greenhouse gases, he emphasizes), where the emissions come from, and the climate goal of limiting warming to 1,5 degrees: "If we continue with emissions as today, then in 2030 we have burned enough coal, gas, oil and forests to increase the temperature by 1,5 degrees compared to pre-industrial times ", writes Holmås.

We have two choices, he believes: comprehensive emissions cuts quickly, or leaving the responsibility to the next generation. He claims that the oil industry ignores the 1,5-degree target, and he criticizes Norway for cutting more abroad than at home: "The actual emissions in Norway have been at rest for 30 years."

Workers at Germany's car factories have to go out the door, for the production of electric cars gives
less work.

In the same part of the book, he says that "from 2008 onwards, Norwegian emissions have slowly but surely begun to decline". Biofuels, taxes, electrification of the Johan Sverdrup platform, closure of gas power plants and a ban on heating with fossil oil mean that "Norwegian emissions in 2019 for the first time in decades were lower than in 1990", Holmås writes, and adds that as a as a result of the corona pandemic «activity that pollutes goes down».

We aim to «reach the national emission targets for 2020», he writes, «a decrease of just under 6 per cent». But when Holmås gets to list numbers, quotas and percentage cuts at home and abroad, it is suddenly just sadness: "In reality, Norway and Norwegian companies paid for green restructuring of companies in other countries, while we ourselves continued as before."

Did we not have a decline here at home? "The period 1990–2020 appears as lost decades for Norwegian conversion to zero emissions," Holmås writes and demands harder lye.

«The world's cleanest industry»

The author's toolbox contains ten tools for obtaining the Norwegian CO2emissions down to zero in 2030. There are requirements and taxes that will give zero emissions – not least from Norwegian gas and oil production: CO2-the fee will be increased, and at the same time the shelf will be electrified – with offshore wind power. Every power supply must come from renewable energy, we must reach the goal.

For Norway, coal-black pigs have the forest: the world's "cleanest" processing industry imports 1,2 million tonnes of coal (in 2019) and adorns itself with "pure" because it drives of hydropower and wind power. Holmå's comment is: "If you had stood by a road and all the coal consumption in the world's cleanest 'industry had passed, you would have seen a trailer with 30 tonnes of coal every 7 minutes, around the clock, all year round." We need to switch to electricity, or at least bio-raw materials, synthetic oil, district heating or hydrogen, he writes.

In an interview with E24 Holmaas acknowledges that the oil and gas sector cannot be based on offshore wind alone, it is not possible to exclude shore-side electricity to the Norwegian shelf. As is well known, there is little wind power when there is no wind. Where does the shore power come from? At least not from nuclear power, "purple hydrogen is hardly relevant for Norway". On the other hand, it is "conceivable with biogas or synthetic gas from land".

What about developing the hydropower we already have? No, it seems more important to look at zero-emission technology and power islands in the ocean than reliable hydropower.

What about the harmful effects of wind power on nature and wildlife? Nor something that worries Holmås. He is not entirely credible in his environmental commitment when he avoids problematizing the effects that wind power development already has, and will have, on everything from nature destruction to insects and protected sea eagles. What price must wildlife and nature pay for us to reach the zero-emission target he wants?

A new ministry

Holmås points to CO2emissions as the main problem. The climate challenges will be solved in the new ministry he proposes to create: a completely new and green-shining ministry of climate, energy and nature conservation. This new "super ministry" will make a plan for zero emissions in 2030, and the government must anchor it in the Storting. Requirements must be set for the state and municipality regarding zero emissions in purchasing and operations, for the transport industry as well, climate reporting must be introduced for all businesses and so on.

Consequences for nature and wildlife in the power development are not something the former environmental demonstrator emphasizes.

But will there be jobs for everyone in the green shift? In parts of the former fossil-based industry, it is a joke for the jobs after the change: Workers at Germany's car factories have to go out the door, because "the production of electric cars gives less work", writes Leif Sande, former head of Industri Energi in one of the forewords to The globe is burning.

Later in the book, Holmås mentions the co – determination of the workers and the role of the trade unions, the workers' right to change and so on. The expertise of the oil industry can help solve the crisis. The solutions exist, he believes. There is only a need to create a demand for "green products and services".

which green products and services? Which jobs should we be adjusted to, specifically?

Should we all become electricians, engineers, consultants and construction workers when society is electrified? How many workers are needed to engage in carbon capture or change hydraulic oil in the wind turbines? Will there be vacancies in the super ministry's department for climate reporting?

There are several aspects of the green shift that Holmås avoids despite the title The globe is burning, what needs to be done, and which he himself points out are omitted: meat consumption ("although I think it is important") and the high Norwegian consumption of imports of plastics and textiles. He sticks to CO2emissions and the zero emission target – not only here at home, but for the whole world. I do not find objections to the amount of power that will flood the green shift's battery parks, but rather a statement that we need a lot of renewable energy – and an uncritical technology optimism. Consequences for nature and wildlife in the power development are not something the former environmental demonstrator emphasizes.

The book is published with support from the Trade Union and the Electricity and IT Association. Especially the latter, we must believe are satisfied with the result.

Iril Kolle
Freelance journalist, translator and graphic designer.

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