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Small in numbers but big on influence, Norway and its recent election may have ripple effects on industry

Image: Incoming Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Støre

It was election day in Norway on Monday, a Norwegian right likened to selecting one’s favorite apple from the spectrum of apple varieties. It’s a far cry from the “apples and oranges” polarization pickle that other nations find themselves caught in these days, and by all accounts, Norway’s 5.328 million inhabitants are happier for it – at least according to the World Happiness Index. 

The red apples were the fan favorites this year, with Norway’s Labor Party, Arbeiderpartiet, taking the top spot. The triumphant party will now commence talks with their more like-minded political peers on how their coalition government will pan out. It’s a process of collaboration and compromise, which are perhaps the defining characteristics of any Norwegian regime, no matter how red or blue. 

A country of compromise and contradiction 

Today Norway ranks 119th in population, sixth in GDP per capita, and sixth in happiness. Money may not buy happiness, but it’s certainly helped make life easier for the Norwegians, as common concerns like healthcare and education are placed on bigger, more parliamentary shoulders instead of their own. To find this happy place, just look on the map for the inverted Big Dipper-shaped country to the north, known for its infatuation with trolls, prevalence of polar bears, and appetite for lye-soaked fish, and in more recent history, its treasure trove of black gold safely stored in the nation’s continental shelf.

It’s also a country of contradiction; a climate leader propped up by its oil wealth. And while it may not wield a whole lot of power on the world stage, Norway’s political might comes in the form of its influence and impact on global issues. 

Norwegian public affairs expert Erlend Bollman Bjørtvedt, founder of the country risk mitigation company Corisk, sheds some light on how Norway exercises its impact and what the awaiting administration may influence next. 

Thinking about Norway’s influence and impact, what does a Labor Party-led administration mean for the world? 

EBB: They will stick to long-term policy commitments agreed under previous administrations, but I expect a few things to change. I believe that we will see a limit to oil exploration under this administration, and funding incentives will instead be directed toward new energy sources and carbon capture technology. I believe we will also see better frameworks for offshore wind, hydrogen, and hydropower upgrades.

It also remains to be seen whether this administration will adjoin Norway to the EU energy market cooperation, which could be a deciding factor in whether more Norwegian power is exported to Europe. The two junior potential cabinet partners reject membership in European Union Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER) and the common energy market. This could be critical in aligning Norway’s energy transition with the rest of the continent. 

Where do we see other signs of Norway’s influence in the world? 

EBB: I can see three areas, the latter two being highly relevant for industry. The first is our advocacy of a rule-based global order, in which we adhere to global trade and investment rules through global organizations such as the UN or WTO, and advise others to do the same. Our second area of influence is in the energy transition. We have had a carbon tax in our country for 30 years, an additional Norwegian tax burden on top of the EU quota system. This will help accelerate the transition, including thorough electrification of oil fields. In addition, we are ramping up in hydrogen, offshore wind, and carbon capture, and I don’t think we would see this acceleration without such incentives from the government. And the final area where we make an impact is in digitalization. Norway is leading in the digitalization of the public sector, an extremely challenging task, but one that has worked well because of a general willingness to compromise and build systems that work nationally. 

Why is compromise such a recurring theme in Norwegian politics? 

EBB: It’s part of our history. We have reached lasting compromises on important topics such as wage formation, taxation, pensions, and the carbon tax. And because these agreements are long-term in nature, we have managed to maintain predictability – you know more or less what the corporate tax or carbon tax will be for the next 10 years. This enables businesses to operate with the security that an administration shift won’t have major consequences for their strategy and planning. 

What does Norway do better than any other country in the world? 

EBB: Our natural resources management is quite successful – everything from fish to forest to petroleum. We have managed, regulated, and restrained ourselves from overexploiting natural resources. We have distributed our oil wealth to the entire nation so that everyone benefits, at the same time avoiding monopolies by opening oil fields to other countries. And we have built industries around our natural resources, stimulating technological and expert development. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when the new government takes its seat next month, but you can count on one thing: Long-term political compromises still will be the name of the game.

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