Are climate change discourses in line with the urgency required to meet the 1.5°C target? – A poststructuralist perspective on official Norwegian climate change narratives
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The “newest” science presented in the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Special Report on Global Warming of 1.5°C show the severity of the climate change issue and the urgency required to meet it. A consensus in the climate science community agrees that a profound transition of our civilisation’s energy systems and socio-economic structures must rapidly take place if the world is to meet the common goal of limiting global warming to well below 2°C – as stated in the Paris Agreement. However, increasing emissions and systemic carbon lock-in suggests that this goal might fall out of reach if urgent and significant measures are not taken within the next decade. Norway is doing especially poor in this respect with emissions still increasing despite high and outspoken ambitions for reduction. Norway’s increasing emissions are mostly due to deep economic dependency on the country’s petroleum industry. According to poststructuralist theory, narratives are central to both the power structures within societies and to processes of cultural, historical and socio-economic change. Thus, a narrative perspective on climate change can provide insight and valuable guidance in the transitions that must occur if we are to limit or halt global climate breakdown. The thesis assumes two different angles of inquiry, 1) what climate science and transition theory can teach us about the severity of climate change and how to meet the challenge politically and technically, and 2) what prominent official climate change narratives and policies in Norway entail. Thus, the study aims to give insight into whether Norway’s climate change response is consistent with the critical reality of climate change. The thesis adopts a narrative analysis framework to inquiry into climate change narratives from within the official institutions most relevant to the climate change issue in Norway – the Ministry of Climate and Environment and the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy. It looks at the consistency of narratives over time and the relation between the two ministries in terms of there being any apparent narrative clashes or correlations. The thesis further assesses how the various actors incorporate science into the narratives and what role the IPCC’ SR15 might play. The analysis finds several dominant narratives with a varying degree of correlation between the two ministries. Most prominent are the narratives framing Norway as a ‘world leader’ on climate action, the narrative emphasising the importance of economic (green) growth and the narrative reconciling petroleum expansions with emission reductions by arguing the importance of replacing coal (abroad) with Norwegian gas. The thesis also finds that Norway’s current and intended climate policies are not in line with meeting the target set through the Paris Agreement for domestic emissions reduction nor with the 1,5°C target. I also argue that green growth is unfeasible for Norway as long as the petroleum sector remains the backbone of the country’s economy. Green growth through decoupling the economy from carbon emissions is also shown to be highly unlikely to occur at the rate required to limit global warming to below 2°C globally. Adopting a poststructuralist perspective, I conclude that Norway will remain a climate change mitigation laggard if official policies remain subject to current narratives. Within the scope of the 1,5°C target, I argue that continued economic dependence on the petroleum sector through expansion, is not reconcilable with reaching national emission reduction goals, the goals of the Paris Agreement nor consistent with global climate change mitigation.
Master's Thesis in Energy, Environment and society