Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Norway Going Carbon Lean by 2050

It appears that Norway is following Sweden's lead [previous post] by implementing a national plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The Norwegian government appointed the Norwegian Commission on Low Emissions on March 11, 2005 and charged the Commission with the task of preparing scenarios of how Norway can reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases by 50-80 percent by 2050.

The Commission presented their final report to Minister of the Environment Helen Bjørnøy on October 4th 2006.

The Commission projected a reference scenario for how emissions growth would occur absent any reduction plan. Norway's greenhouse gas emissions in the reference path reach about 70 million tons of CO2 equivalent by 2050, according to the Commission. About three quarters of the emissions in this scenario are distributed fairly evenly between electricity production, industrial processes, and transportation. The remaining emissions will come mainly from gas and oil activity, heating, agriculture, and waste disposal, the Commission reports.

[Graphic: The Commission expects Norway's greenhouse gas emissions to reach about 70 million tons CO2 equivalent by 2050. Historical and projected annual emissions of greenhouse gases are shown in the Commission’s reference path. The low-emission goal for 2050 is also shown (click to enlarge)]

The Commission's report identifies 15 measures that together will ensure the necessary reduction of Norwegian emissions over the next half-century. The measures are mainly directed at specific and major emissions sources, with the exception of two basic measures that the Commission sees as prerequisites for the realization of the other measures.

Getting to a Low-Carbon Diet - The Commissions General Solution:

Basic measures:

  • Implementation of long-term national investment in climate information – a long-lasting climate awareness campaign.

  • Dissemination of accurate and relevant facts about the climate problem and what can be done.

  • Investment in the development of climate-friendly technologies through long-term and stable support for the Commission’s technology package. This technology package emphasizes technologies for carbon capture and storage, wind power (especially at sea), pellet and clean-burning woodstoves and fireplaces, biofuels, solar cells, hydrogen technologies, heat pumps, and low-emission ships.

  • Transportation:

  • Phasing in of low- and zero-emission vehicles, such as hybrid cars, light diesel cars, electric cars, and fuel-cell cars.

  • Phasing in of CO2-neutral fuels, such as bioethanol, biodiesel, biogas and hydrogen.

  • Reduction of transportation demands through improved logistics and urban planning.

  • Development and phasing in of low-emission ships.

  • Heating:

  • Increased energy efficiency in buildings through stricter building codes, eco-labeling, and subsidies.

  • Transition to CO2-neutral heating through increased use of biomass, more effective use of solar heat, heat pumps, etc.

  • Agriculture and waste disposal:

  • Collection of methane from manure pits and landfill, and use of the gas for energy purposes.

  • Industrial processes:

  • Implementation of carbon capture and storage from industries with large point source greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Implementation of process improvements in energy-intensive industries.

  • Oil and gas activities:

  • Electrification of the continental shelf and more facilities located on land.

  • Electricity production:

  • Expansion of “new renewable” energy through construction of wind and small hydro-electric power stations.

  • Implementation of carbon capture and storage from gas-fired and coal-fired power plants.

  • Upgrading and improved efficiency of the electricity grid to reduce loss in the grid and give smaller power plants better access.

  • [Graphic: Illustration of the Commission's general solution. Annual emissions of greenhouse gases in the past, in the Commission’s reference path, and in the proposed low-emission path 1990–2050 (click to enlarge)]

    The Commission’s calculations find that the national costs for their greenhouse gas reduction plan need not be exorbitant, given that the measures are implemented when the need for renovation arises and as long as climate-friendly solutions are chosen systematically in new investments. And investment in education, research, development, and testing of climate-friendly technologies will, under any circumstances, strengthen Norway’s technological expertise, the Commission reports.

    First Steps - What Must Be Done Now?

    The Commission writes:
    "Even though exchange of equipment and such will take place at a natural pace, it is important that the necessary political signals are sent and framework conditions are established now to achieve a more climate-friendly development in the time to come."
    According to the Commission, in cooperation with industry, energy suppliers and organizations, the Norwegian government and decision-makers must implement the following measures during the current parliamentary term:

  • Develop information campaigns connected to climate change. This requires long-term government support of both general climate information and information on how each person can help reduce emissions without reducing their quality of life.

  • Allocate funds for the Commission’s proposed technology package and for the technology investment recommended by the Research Council of Norway’s committee on climate research. This requires generous and long-term funding of prioritized research themes, including increased understanding of decision processes associated with climate measures.

  • Further develop technological innovation by building pilot and demonstration projects.

  • Realize carbon capture and storage in all gas-fired and coal-fired power plants.

  • Invest in low- and zero-emission vehicles. This requires automobile taxation based on environmental incentives, government purchases, government regulation, and ensuring the sale of biofuels in an amount equivalent to at least five percent of the total sales in 2009.

  • Increase investment in carbon-neutral heating through support of heating systems based on biofuels and heat pumps, as well as introducing a return deposit for outdated oil and gas boilers.

  • Increase investment in energy efficiency improvements through stricter building codes for energy consumption per square meter.

  • Establish of clear, stable, and long-term subsidies for development of renewable energy sources. This also includes suppliers of energy to the heating market.

  • Stimulate climate-friendly government purchases. This requires comprehensive motivation and training programs for relevant government employees and stricter enforcement of regulations governing public purchases.

  • Develop sector-based policy plans and policy recommendations from the ministries with the aim of making Norway climate friendly.

  • Work actively to further develop the European emissions trading system and emissions trading under the Kyoto Protocol, as well as to encourage additional countries and sectors to take on binding emissions targets.


  • A Model for the World?

    The Commission's report recognizes that any emissions reductions achieved by Norway will have a small impact on worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. According to the Commission, Norway itself is responsible for less than two-tenths of a percent of the global greenhouse emissions.

    However, the Commission recognizes that emissions reduction efforts in Norway can have a significant symbolic effect. The Commission writes
    "It is reasonable, as stated in the UN Convention on Climate Change, that rich countries pave the way and reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases before countries with social and economic development needs are required to set climate targets. Norway is without doubt one of the countries which, from this perspective, should agree to restrict its emissions."
    The policy and technology solutions tried and tested in Norway can serve as models for the rest of the industrialized and developing world as they follow the lead of countries like Norway, Sweden, Iceland and others who have taken proactive and concerted steps to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

    That's not to say there's nothing in it for Norway either. As the Commission writes:
    "And finally, the Commission believes that the climate problem will make it necessary and desirable from a selfish perspective to reduce emissions sooner or later. The countries that develop the necessary climate-friendly technology early on will gain a competitive advantage in future industry development, and will thus be able to position themselves favorably in a future market for such technology."
    As After Gutenburg points out:
    [Norway's committment] comes as somewhat of a surprise, since Norway is the largest oil and gas producer among Scandinavian countries and lags behind Denmark, for instance, in the use of wind power, or behind Sweden or Finland in the use of biomass. On the other hand, Reuters reported in June that Norway was establishing a 20 billion Norwegian crowns ($3.24 billion) fund to promote renewable energy such as wind and hydro.
    It's also worth noting, that unlike Sweden, Norway's Commission was silent on the issue of expanded use of nuclear power. Swedish policy makers committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions (and eliminating their fossil fuel use!) without expanding the use of Nuclear power beyond currently operating plants. A 1980 referendum in Sweden committed the country to phase out it's fleet of nuclear plants as they reached retirement age.

    The leadership exhibited by these Scandanavian countries on addressing climate change and greenhouse gas emissions is laudable. The plan outlined by the Commission seems very sensible and ought to be taken note of by policy makers throughout the world.

    Let's hope both Sweden and Norway follow through with their plans and succesfully implement several policy and technology solutions that can be adopted by other nations. I hope these two forward-looking countries truly become models for the rest of the world.

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