Norway wants to get rid of gasoline-fueled cars, plans to become carbon neutral by 2030 and spends billions on helping poor countries reduce their carbon footprints. Meanwhile, it's pushing ever farther into the Arctic Ocean in search of more oil and gas, the AP reports. "We know there is a paradox," admits Vidar Helgesen, Norway's climate and energy minister. "We have been living well from oil and gas. But there is no country in the world that has done more to undermine the oil and gas industry than Norway." The Scandinavian country of 5 million people is torn between its ambition to be a global leader on climate change and the awareness that its wealth is linked to the world's dependence on fossil fuels.
Norway is accused of environmental hypocrisy, grandstanding overseas with environmental projects while allowing its domestic oil and gas industry to pump ever-larger quantities of carbon into the atmosphere. Plans for carbon neutrality involve buying credits for helping reduce emissions abroad. "The plan has always been to buy carbon credits to allow us to continue polluting as a country," says Lars Haltbrekken, chairman of the Norwegian chapter of Friends of the Earth. Environmental activists bristle at exploration permits handed out to 13 oil companies in May to drill in a new area of the Norwegian Arctic. In June, Norway became one of the first countries to ratify last year's Paris Agreement on climate change. Haltbrekken says that any Norwegian contribution to this target that does not involve a reduction in oil and gas is empty. Helgesen disagrees: "Norway has the cleanest hydrocarbons anywhere in the world. And as long as the world needs oil and gas, we will provide it." (Read more Norway stories.)