Monday, March 18, 2019

Who is the Greenest of them All? Ireland or Norway?

The governments of Norway and Ireland are leading the transition away from fossil fuels to renewable forms of energy. Four years ago Norway announced that it was divesting its assets from coal and now Ireland has decided to fully divest from all fossil fuels. Earlier this month Norway announced that they would begin withdrawing their investments from 134 international fossil fuel companies.

In 2015 Norway decided to divest 8 billion in coal holdings from their sovereign wealth funds.  Recently the Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), which manages roughly $1 trillion worth of the nation’s assets announced it was withdrawing its investments from 134 international fossil fuel companies. In 2017 the Irish parliament voted to divest $361 million of public money from fossil fuels to became the first country to fully divest from coal, oil and gas. The Irish Parliament passed the Fossil Fuel Divestment Bill in January which gives the National Treasury Management Agency five years to withdraw $8.5 billion of the fossil fuels assets from the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund.

Ireland has been motivated to act by a spate of extreme weather events. In 2017 the northwest of the country suffered through two hours of torrential rain that laid waste to significant amounts of infrastructure. Then there was Hurricane Ophelia which is considered to be the worst storm in half a century. In 2018, Ireland was hit by a Anticyclone Hartmut, a cold wave that became known as the Beast from the East. It brought widespread unusually low temperatures and heavy snowfall to large areas. More recently the country has suffered from heat and drought.

The fact that normally temperate Ireland is suffering from anomalous heat waves is noteworthy.
This heat and a 75 percent reduction in rainfall has contributed to unprecedented wildfires. Norway has also seen extreme heat including some record breaking temperatures in recent years and like Ireland they have also been impacted by uncharacteristic wildfires.

As reported by Slate, Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, has averaged 10 degrees C (18 degrees F) above normal winter. Temperatures rose above the freezing mark on dozens of days and this contributed to record-setting low maximum in Arctic sea ice. Warmer land and sea temperatures are creating conditions that are hastening the melting of Arctic ice. 

Both countries have populations that understand climate change. Norway has the 5th highest level of climate awareness while Ireland is the 14th most climate aware country in the world. Although Ireland has reaped benefits from going green Norway is one of the world leaders in the global transition towards an inclusive green economy. 

Ireland has a long way to go to realize its green dreams while Norway has already started a review process to ratchet-up their greenhouse gas emission reduction commitments. They are leaders in electric vehicles and they are the first country to ban biofuels made from palm oil. Almost all of Norway's energy comes from renewables and the country taxes its internal consumption of fuels at the highest rate among oil exports. However, there is a caveat to Norway's green leadership, they are the world's third largest exporter of natural gas. 

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