Unicef Norway appoints teenage climate activist as ambassador

Norway’s fifth and newest Unicef ambassador is 15-year-old Penelope Lea, a young activist who has been prominent in climate movements in the country over the last year.

Unicef Norway appoints teenage climate activist as ambassador
Penelope Lea. Photo: Unicef Norway

Lea is the second-youngest Unicef ambassador of all time and the first climate activist to be chosen as an ambassador, the NGO writes on its website.

The teenager has been engaged in climate issues since she was eight years old and was elected to the board of Eco-Agents, an environmental organization for children, at the age of 11, according to the Unicef Norway website.

She has been particularly prominent in climate protests in Norway over the last six months, during which time she has appeared on a series of stages across the country to give speeches during demonstrations.

Her activism also includes heading the Norwegian Children’s Climate Panel (Barnas Klimapanel) and taking part in an appeal during the UN climate talks in Bonn.

“It feels very meaningful to work with Unicef, which works for children’s rights,” the 15-year-old told NRK.

“Climate changes impact very unequally, (but) particularly on children. So it’s important for us to stand together. I will fight to give myself, my friends, people and the next generation the chance to live,” she added.

Unicef Norway general secretary Camilla Viken praised Lea's talent and ambition and said she looked forward to working with her.

“We want to work with Penelope because she has been a clear and strong voice on an area of great importance for her and many children: climate,” Viken told NRK.

“Furthermore, she has campaigned for children to be given the opportunity to put across their views and be heard,” Viken added.

Unicef Norway last appointed an ambassador, former alpine ski racer Kjetil André Aamodt, 12 years ago. The NGO’s other national ambassadors are former footballer and current Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær and soprano singer Sissel Kyrkjebø, while actress and director Liv Ullmann is an international ambassador for the Norwegian charity.

READ ALSO: Norway could see 40-degree summers: climate experts


How do Norway’s CO2 emissions compare to other countries?

Norway can be seen as either a relatively green country or one of the worlds largest polluters, depending on whether you include emissions which occur abroad as a result of its oil trade.

Pictured is the chimney of an industrial building emitting fumes. When taking emissions per capita into account Norway is one of the worlds top 20 CO2 producers.
Pictured is the chimney of an industrial building emitting fumes. When taking emissions per capita into account Norway is one of the worlds top 20 CO2 producers. Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash

Norway has long been in the strange juxtaposition of being perceived as one of Europe’s greener countries while being one of the continent’s biggest natural oil and gas producers. 

While most new cars sold in the country are electric, and the coalition government has announced several carbon-cutting goals as part of its government policy platform, the nation of 5.3 million will continue to develop its oil industry and press on with exploration for gas and “black gold”. 

Within its own borders, then Norway is only the world’s 61st biggest CO2 polluter, according to data on the country’s carbon dioxide output provided by climate researchers Cicero and the Global Carbon Project for broadcaster NRK

The country emits 41 million tonnes of CO2 annually, according to figures it submits to the UN. This pales in comparison to the 329 million tonnes released by the UK, the 1.5 billion tonnes emitted by Russia, the 4.7 billion tonnes the USA has reported to the UN, and the more than 10 billion tonnes China discharges.

By this metric, Norway looks to be relatively green. However, when emissions per capita are considered, Norway leapfrogs the UK and China, emitting 7.7 tonnes per person.

These figures don’t consider the environmental impact of the country’s oil and gas trade. Most of the industry’s emissions occur outside of Norway and are therefore not included in the national figures. 

READ ALSO: How will climate change impact Norway?

When emissions released by the oil and gas trade outside of the country’s borders are accounted for then Norway becomes the 17th largest nation in terms of CO2 output. 

Additionally, when emissions produced outside its borders are taken into consideration, carbon dioxide generated per person in Norway jumps from 7.7 tonnes to 93.6. This puts Norway fourth overall, behind oil giants Qatar, Kuwait and Brunei. 

Norway’s petroleum minister, Marte Mjøs Persen, told NRK that the country wasn’t responsible for emissions produced abroad as a result of oil and gas exports. 

“Not according to the Paris Agreement. There we are responsible for the emissions we have in the Norwegian sector,” Persen told NRK.