Why a 2015 Norwegian drama is suddenly the most relevant thing on TV

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On November 13, when Police President Alok Sharma announced his agreement with the Glasgow Climate Pact, he told delegates in a voice full of emotion that he “deeply regrets” the “deep disappointment” that many do not think the world will do, thanks to India’s intervention and China to pledge to phase out coal.

Six years ago, Norwegian television began airing a new drama series called Occupt (Busy), in which another politician – the prime minister of Norway – is trying to take drastic action against fossil fuels. After extreme weather and flooding, Jesper Berg (played by Henrik Mestad) was elected the country’s first green prime minister, promising to end Norway’s oil and gas exports. But he also believes that the international community will not tolerate such changes: the EU is rapidly developing an energy crisis, and soon after this announcement, Russian soldiers put him in a helicopter.

A few hours later, Berg is back on television. Likewise, bowing his head and shaking his voice, he tells the press that more time is needed. Fossil fuels are shrinking, not stopping. At the rigs, newly arrived Russian engineers are making sure that oil continues to flow to Europe. Meanwhile, the government is forced to pretend that Norway has not been invaded.

Norwegian crime writer Joe Nesbo wrote the first episodes Busy in 2008, and first aired in 2015 (it now airs in the UK on Netflix). Over the months and years, parallels between the show and the very real global conflicts over energy continued to grow. Countries are hesitant about the climate crisis, and energy policies shape the relationship between Russia, Europe and the rest of the world.

Earlier last month, the Norwegian channel TV2 reported that Tina Bru, the then Energy Minister of Norway, traveled to Brussels to meet with EU Energy Commissioner Kadri Simson. At the meeting, Simson asked Bru to reaffirm Norway’s commitment to electricity exports. Norway the largest an energy exporter in Europe, but members of the Norwegian Center Party have proposed limiting or ending electricity exports as global energy shortages are driving up electricity prices at home. Without Norway, which supplies third As far as British gas is concerned, the British energy crisis will be far more dire.

Busy also highlights Norway’s internal controversy: Despite all of its environmental obligations, the country is dependent on fossil fuels. In 2007, the Norwegian government announced a plan to become the first carbon-neutral country; Almost all Norway’s electricity comes from hydropower plants and 80 percent of new cars sold – electric (up from 17 percent in the UK). But in August of this year, Norwegian oil exports exceeded 1.7 million barrels of oil per day… The wealth from this largely invisible business goes to the world’s largest public welfare fund; country as you know progressive social policy paid with crude oil.

Russia, really and in Busy, is ready to more openly declare the use of energy exports as a political leverage; its president, Vladimir Putin, is accused of exacerbating the current gas shortage in order to pressure Germany to approve of it Nord Stream 2 pipeline. When Busy first shown in 2015, following Russia’s invasion of Crimea and Donbas regions in Ukraine, the Russian ambassador to Norway described the drama as an attempt to “scare Norwegian viewers with a non-existent threat from the east.” it reminded me of the “worst traditions of the Cold War.” Putin is not mentioned in Busy, but how Kremlin crisis develops on the borders of Poland and Lithuania, and Ukraine calls for help in the United States, the portrayal of a regime with a steadfast tendency to balance on the brink of war remains accurate.

Moreover, Russia is not just an aggressor in Busy… Although Norway is unofficially occupied by Russian troops who quietly cross the border and infiltrate society, it is the EU’s need for gas – and the US desire to avoid conflict – that make occupation possible.

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After all, it is not the only country that occupies Norway in Busy but the need is the same need that manifested itself in Cop26: the desire to keep things as they are, in spite of all evidence and by whatever means necessary.

[See also: Why the UK is not giving up on oil despite its Cop26 climate ambitions]

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