Climate change mitigation (Norway)
Why should we care about this issue
- Climate change
Many changes, caused by climate change, have already been observed in the Norwegian natural environment and major changes are expected to occur both in types of habitat and species composition.
Migratory species of birds are arriving earlier in spring; animals are reaching sexual maturity more quickly; production and reproduction rates are higher; trees are coming into leaf earlier; salmonids leaving rivers for the sea are younger; and the spawning areas used by fish in the sea are changing.
Changes in precipitation patterns affect the runoff of water, particulate matter and nutrients, and this in turn can have a major impact, especially on coastal and freshwater ecosystems. Changes in snow- and rainfall together with temperature influence ice formation, and the depth and duration of snow cover. Deep snow has been shown to have a negative effect on population growth for some animals. The duration of snow cover influences the length of the growing season, and the formation of thicker ice crusts results in poorer grazing conditions for species such as reindeer.
In the Norwegian Arctic, precipitation and temperature changes cause problems for a vulnerable infrastructure. Railways, roads, airports power lines, sewage systems and water supply are threatened by greater risk of flooding and avalanches. Furthermore, all nature-based industry (fishing, agriculture, tourism, etc) will need to adapt to the new climatic situation, but there are different adaptation opportunities and possibilities for the different industries.
The effects of climate change on Norway’s natural environment cannot be considered in isolation from other factors. Climate change comes in addition to the destruction of habitat, the spreading of alien species, pollution and overuse of natural resources. In some instances, climate change can reinforce the negative consequences of other pressures.
The state and impacts
The key drivers and pressures
Norwegian society has undergone substantial change in the last hundred years. Income from the oil and gas industry has resulted in a considerable increase in living standard in the last twenty to thirty years, and is the main reason for Norway’s favourable economic position. Norway has become a welfare state, and income and consumption levels have changed radically. At the same time, oil and gas production has been the main cause of the increase in Norway’s carbon dioxide emissions since 1990.
For the second year running, Norway’s total greenhouse gas emissions have decreased. In 2009, 50.8 million tonnes CO2-equivalents were emitted, which is at its lowest since 1995. A great deal of the reduction is due to lower emissions from the manufacturing industries and oil and gas activities, but emissions from road traffic and agriculture also decreased. The development of the emissions are assumed to be influenced by the financial crisis.
Energy intensity and use
Norway has rich energy resources, particularly in the form of oil, gas and hydropower, and energy extraction is far higher than the country’s energy use. In addition, coal is extracted in Svalbard and Norway has very high wind power and bio energy potential.
Except for brief periods around 1980 and 1990, GDP has grown more strongly than domestic energy use throughout the period 1976–2006. Thus, energy intensity has decreased. International statistics show a similar trend in other OECD countries. This is explained both by more efficient energy use and by changes in industrial structure, for example a shift towards the production of services rather than more energy-intensive raw material production. Structural changes are an important factor behind the observed reduction in energy intensity in Norway, together with changes in prices and market conditions and greater productivity. From 1976 to 2006, energy use increased by about 68 per cent. For the period as a whole, non-renewable energy use has risen slightly more (69 per cent) than renewable energy use (66 per cent).
The 2020 outlook
According to Norway’s commitment under the Kyoto Protocol, emissions shall not be more than one per cent above the 1990 level in the period 2008-2012, taking trade with quotas, joint implementation and/or the clean development mechanism into account. Norway will voluntarily strengthen its Kyoto commitment by 10 percentage points.
As part of its efforts to meet its commitment, we are using taxes, agreements and an emissions trading scheme to achieve our goals, and new technology is being developed. Norway will also fund emission reduction measures in other countries, mainly developing countries.
According to a baseline study by the Norwegian government, emissions could increase to around 59 million tonnes CO2-equivalents in 2020, unless other responses are introduced. Emissions will stabilise towards 2020, if projections that emissions from the oil- and gas industry will decrease towards 2020 prove to be true. Emissions from the transport sector are expected to increase throughout this period.
Norway's target is to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by the equivalent of 40 per cent of its 1990 emissions by 2020,and become climate neutral by 2030. This is provided that other countries who are large emitters undertake ambitious cuts in emissions through a climate deal.
Existing and planned responses
Greenhouse gas emissions are closely linked to the economic development. In 1991 Norway introduced a CO2 tax, which currently covers approximately 68 per cent of all CO2 emissions and about 52 per cent of our total greenhouse gas emissions.
For references, please go to www.eea.europa.eu/soer or scan the QR code.
This briefing is part of the EEA's report The European Environment - State and Outlook 2015. The EEA is an official agency of the EU, tasked with providing information on Europe’s environment.
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