Norway’s Equinor sets green goals but activists unimpressed

Norwegian oil giant Equinor unveiled Thursday objectives to reduce its climate impact but the plans disappointed environmental activists.

Norway's Equinor sets green goals but activists unimpressed
An Equinor employee speaks to a reporter on one of the company's Norwegian oil rigs. File photo: AFP

The state-controlled firm said it aims for overall carbon neutrality by 2030, reducing by half emissions that cause global warming by 2050, and a 10-fold increase in renewable energy capacity by 2026.

“Today we are setting new short-, mid- and long-term ambitions to reduce our own greenhouse gas emissions and to shape our portfolio in line with the Paris Agreement,” Equinor's chief executive Eldar Sætre said in a statement.

Under the 2015 Paris Agreement nations agreed to pursue efforts to limit the increase in global temperatures to under 2.0 degrees Celsius in an attempt to avoid severe consequences from global warming.

“It is a good business strategy to ensure competitiveness and drive change towards a low carbon future, based on a strong commitment to value creation for our shareholders,” Sætre added.

The targets go beyond ones the firm announced just one month ago which aimed to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from its onshore and offshore drilling facilities by 2050.

“As part of the energy industry, we must be part of the solution to combat climate change and address decarbonisation more broadly in line with changes in society,” said Sætre.

Not all the details are known, but Equinor would likely need to power its facilities from renewable electricity and turn to offsets to achieve overall carbon neutrality.

While Equinor is already involved in the massive Dogger Bank wind farm project off the coast of Britain, Thursday's announcement indicates a shift to a greater role in renewable wind power in the future.

“It's good that Equinor understands as well that it must contribute by reducing its emissions but the problem is that Equinor continues to search for more oil and gas,” said Silje Lundberg of the Norwegian branch of the Friends of the Earth environmental group.

“These are two objectives that don't square up over the long term unless Equinor only considers the emissions from producing oil and gas and not those from burning” the fuel which are much larger, she told AFP.

Equinor plans a 7.0 percent increase in oil and gas output this year and will spend around $1.4 billion on exploring for new oil and gas.

The firm, which announced annual results as well on Thursday, fell victim like most other energy groups to a drop in global oil and gas prices.

Net profit plunged to $1.8 billion last year from $7.5 billion in 2018, with the drop explained also by a dip in production and write downs in the value of assets.

Equinor's shares were down 2.3 percent in midday trading while the Oslo stock exchange's all-share index edged up 0.1 percent.

READ ALSO: 'Call me Equinor': Statoil changes name

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‘We agree to disagree’: Still no progress in marathon SAS strike talks

By lunchtime on Friday, talks between the Scandinavian airline SAS and unions representing striking pilots were still stuck on "difficult issues".

'We agree to disagree': Still no progress in marathon SAS strike talks

“We agree that we disagree,” Roger Klokset, from the Norwegian pilots’ union, said at lunchtime outside the headquarters of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise in Stockholm, where talks are taking place. “We are still working to find a solution, and so long as there is still some point in continuing negotiations, we will do that.” 

Mats Ruland, a mediator for the Norwegian government, said that there were “still several difficult issues which need to be solved”. 

At 1pm on Friday, the two sides took a short break from the talks for lunch, after starting at 9am. On Thursday, they negotiated for 15 hours, breaking off at 1am on Friday morning. 

READ ALSO: What’s the latest on the SAS plane strike?

Marianne Hernæs, SAS’s negotiator on Friday told journalists she was tired after sitting at the negotiating table long into the night. 

“We need to find a model where we can meet in the middle and which can ensure that we pull in the income that we are dependent on,” she said. 

Klokset said that there was “a good atmosphere” in the talks, and that the unions were sticking together to represent their members.

“I think we’ve been extremely flexible so far. It’s ‘out of this world’,’ said Henrik Thyregod, with the Danish pilots’ union. 

“This could have been solved back in December if SAS had not made unreasonable demands on the pilots,” Klokset added. 

The strike, which is now in its 12th day, has cost SAS up to 130m kronor a day, with 2,550 flights cancelled by Thursday, affecting 270,000 passengers.