A virtual royal visit

Crown Prince Haakon and Norwegian dignitaries discuss climate goals with California leaders

Virtual royal visit

Photo: Det Kongelige Hoff
A Norwegian production team filmed segments with the Norwegian dignitaries in an Olso studio.

Editorial Assistant
The Norwegian American

The coronavirus pandemic has forced nearly everything to adapt for the last year, including international diplomatic visits. On April 27 and 28, Crown Prince Haakon and a delegation of Norwegian dignitaries made a virtual royal visit to the state of California. With impressive filming and production techniques, along with a few quips about the plane ride to California, it was easy to forget that they were not all sitting in the same room.

Norway and California have much in common, particularly when it comes to the climate. Both are coastal communities, both have ambitious climate goals, and both place a high value on innovation and new technologies in creating sustainable economies. As such, there was plenty to discuss between the two delegations.

The pandemic underscored both days of events. Crown Prince Haakon began each day by acknowledging the loss of life to COVID-19 in the United States. He spoke of how international collaboration around the rapid development of the coronavirus vaccine gives hope for what can be accomplished for climate change if countries work in a similar way. This hope was repeated throughout the two-day event by both the Norwegians and the Californians.

Thematically, the royal visit was divided into two foci for taking action against climate change, with the first day primarily discussing education and research and the second day centering on business and innovation. 

Photo: Det Kongelige Hofft
Crown Prince Haakon of Norway.

After pre-recorded welcomes from California Gov. Gavin Newsom and Norwegian Ambassador to the United States Anniken Krutnes, the first day of the royal visit kicked off with an overarching conversation between California’s Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, Crown Prince Haakon, and Norwegian Minister of Foreign Affairs Ine Eriksen Søreide, discussing big ideas around climate change that would guide the rest of the visit, including international cooperation, innovation and venture capital, zero emission transportation, and off-shore wind power. The crown prince then met with three students from the University of California, Berkeley, discussing the importance of education and the energy of younger generations to combat climate change. The day ended with a meeting of Dr. Tina Seelig of Stanford University, the crown prince, and Innovation Norway’s CEO Håkon Haugli, where ideas were shared about innovation and creating environments for young people to learn to be innovative.

Day two of the visit opened with Crown Prince Haakon, Minister of Foreign Affairs Søreide, and U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, discussing the role of government in combating climate change. Electric vehicles and offshore wind power took center stage during the panel discussions that were the primary focus of day two. The first panel of the day featured leaders from California and Norway discussing zero-emission transportation on both land and sea. The second panel looked at offshore wind power. The final panel of the day looked at the monetary side of climate change; that is, the role of venture capital in financing innovative technologies to minimize negative impacts on the climate. 

Throughout both days, major themes cropped up in the discussions: collaboration, equity and justice, and the importance of young people.

When it comes to collaboration, two types that were highlighted: international collaboration and public-private collaboration. Citing the impressiveness of the international response to the need for a COVID-19 vaccine, Crown Prince Haakon expressed a hope that a similar response could be possible for tackling climate change. Throughout the visit, both Norwegian and Californian delegations spoke of the importance of a collaboration between the public and private spheres in innovating technologies to help with climate change. Kounalakis particularly emphasized this, noting that the public sector facilitates an environment for innovation, while the private sector creates a structure of business and access to capital. 

During the second day, the necessity of centering equity and justice in approaches to combating climate change arose in several of the sessions. In her call with the crown prince and the foreign minister, Pelosi highlighted that the climate crisis should be addressed with both economic justice and environmental justice at the forefront. In the panel dedicated to discussing zero-emission transportation, Liane Randolph, chair of California Air Resources Board, spoke about how leading with an equity mindset is critical to ensure that communities are getting access to zero-emission transportation that is most useful to them. 

The value of young people featured in discussions on both days. Speakers noted how young people feel the threat of climate change more acutely and have important wells of energy and ideas that should be tapped into. Crown Prince Haakon noted several times throughout his meetings that young people are extremely important in making changes to how we live to offset climate change.

Recordings of both days of the royal visit are available on Innovasjon Norge’s YouTube channel. 

Day 1: www.youtube.com/watch?v=QyZv-vIoDqI&ab_channel=InnovasjonNorge

Day 2: www.youtube.com/watch?v=gTUXBKye_yo&ab_channel=InnovasjonNorge 

This article originally appeared in the May 21, 2021, issue of The Norwegian American.

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Courtney Olsen

Courtney Olsen is a writer based in Tacoma, Wash. She is a graduate of Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma and the University of Oxford in England and has been writing for The Norwegian American since 2020. A historical fiction enthusiast, she spends her free time working through her ever-growing reading list with a cup of tea in hand.