Climate justice from a Norwegian perspective

Foto: Markus Spiske. Description: protest sign in a demonstration with the text «Climate Justice Now!», in the sign the «i» is drawn as a thermometer and the «o» as planet earth.

Climate justice from a Norwegian perspective

The World Inequality Report 2022 shows how the climate crisis also is a crisis of inequality. What does this look like from a Norwegian perspective?

The World Inequality Report 2022

The World Inequality Report 2022 was recently published by the researchers in the Inequality Lab. The report presents the most up to date global overview of inequality in the world, exploring both the inequality between and within countries. A novelty in this report is that it connects inequality with other societal issues such as the climate crisis and gender imbalance. Their findings are an important lesson for future climate negotiations.

The global inequality of pollution

In order to discuss emissions stemming from individuals as opposed to countries, the authors have distributed the remaining carbon budget equally both demographically and chronologically, so that each person is allowed the same quota of emissions every year until 2030. The result was a carbon budget of approximately 3,4 tonnes of CO2 per person to remain below 2 degrees of global warming, and 1,1 tons for the 1,5 limit. In 2019, by comparison, the global average was 6,6 tonnes per person.

These numbers alone are depressing in and of themselves, but when the aspect of inequality is taken into account, they become even worse.

The report bases its numbers on carbon footprints rather than territorial emissions, ensuring that the consumption patterns are included in the calculations for each country. Looking at the numbers for tonnes emitted per person until 2050, we are looking at a global average. However, the amount of pollution historically emitted and currently being emitted is far from being divided equally between countries. This is a major point of contention in the global climate negotiations, and was also on the agenda during the COP26 in Glasgow:

- COP26 was the hallmark of a clear Northern agenda to pursue half-measures that comfort the world’s biggest polluters while oppressing African and other developing nation’s communities, which are among the most burdened by the adverse impacts of climate change, Dr. Augustine N’djamnshi stated on behalf of the Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance in a press conference in Glasgow on November 12th 2021.

For the distribution of global emissions to be equal on a per capita basis, there should be negative emissions in Europe and North America, which is impossible. Europe and North America’s quotas are already filled, and in practice, that means that all future emissions from these regions should be met with emission reductions of corresponding dimensions. All the while, discussion on climate finance – a necessary tool for such a feat – is not progressing at the necessary pace. The goal of 100 billion dollars annually for climate financing was not reached in 2021.

Norway’s fair contribution

In 2018, ForUM co-published the report «Norway’s Fair Share of meeting the Paris agreement», written by Stockholm Environment Institute. The report elaborates what Norway’s fair share of emissions reductions would be to meet the Paris agreement goals. That number was an astounding 430% reduction in emissions by 2030 compared to 1990. The calculation of Norways fair share was based on an equal split between capacity, where wealth is the core component, and responsibility, which is based on emissions since 1990. There is also a component of wealth within responsibility, as the high standard of living enjoyed from 1990 until today by most Norwegians contributes significantly to emissions. In addition, there is Norway’s petroleum sector, which means the country bears a significant responsibility to climate change.

As it is impossible to cut 430% of emissions nationally by 2030, Norway has to take responsibility for reducing emissions in other countries through climate financing. As the Paris agreement states that climate finance to reduction of emissions and to climate adaptation should be divided approximately 50/50, Stockholm Environmental Institute therefore calculated that Norway should use approximately 65 billion NOK (7,4 billion USD) each year. Together with our member organisations, ForUM is working for this goal to be met by the Norwegian government.

- Since climate change is already happening, it is important for many developing countries to construct robust societies that can withstand the worst weather catastrophes. Funding for adaptation was therefore a central topic on the agenda at the COP26 in Glasgow. However, the lack of funding for adaptation, both nationally and internationally, shows the importance of Norway to increase the funding, so we can meet our fair share says Lillian Bredal Eriksen, senior advisor in ForUM.

Pollution inequality not only between countries, but also within

The World Inequality report also finds a link between emission inequality and income inequality, though it varies from region to region. In following with the wider topic of the report, the chapter on pollution also considers inequality both between and within countries. Viewed from this angle, pollution is also possible to consider as a tangible issue of the individual polluter. The report finds that emissions vary according to wealth, showcasing that the global average has the richest 10% emitting 31 tonnes CO2 per capita as opposed to the poorest 50% of the population only emitting on average 1,6 tonne per capita. However, it is these 50% that will likely bear the largest consequences of climate change.

These numbers underline that the climate crisis is also an inequality crisis in multiple ways, both between countries and within countries. The authors draw a line between the great divide in responsibility for emissions and the popular protests against climate policies seen in many countries, with the yellow vest movement in France being the most obvious example. From this the report infers that in order to tackle emissions, an emphasis must be made on individual emissions to ensure that policies are perceived as legitimate. This conclusion is applicable to policies within countries, but just as much to the global climate negotiations.

ForUM’s opinion

Based on the Norway’s Fair Share report, ForUM demands that Norway cut at least 55% of our national emissions by 2030. To reach this goal, Norway must go through a great green transition, which includes phasing out our fossil industries. To make this transition just within Norway, ForUM is asking the government to establish a program for creating 100 000 new “climate jobs”.

The rest of the cuts, Norway must do through climate financing, amounting to 198 million tonnes of emission cuts to be done elsewhere. At COP26 ForUM therefore demanded that the Norwegian government pledge approximately 65 billion NOK to climate financing. This sum would equal Norway’s fair share to climate financing, which covers the necessary cuts, mitigation and adaptation costs, as well as compensation for loss and damage. However, this money must not be taken from the aid budget, as was proposed in the state budget.

- Norway must contribute with our share without forwarding the bill to those who are least responsible for the climate crisis. To cut development aid to fulfil our commitments in other policy areas is a grave injustice, says Kathrine Sund-Henriksen, director of ForUM.

From the perspective of inequality, climate financing is a way for the rich countries to remedy their mistakes through helping the countries who will be victim to the crisis. Climate financing is thus not charity, but resembles the payment of a debt. This also seeks to address the inequality in the distribution of the consequences of climate change, which will affect the poorest in society most, especially in low-income countries. Therefore, climate financing seeks to mitigate the effects through support to adaptation to prepare for future changes, and loss and damage to compensate for changes that have already taken a toll.