Changes in the natural environment already observed

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.

Transport, industry and petroleum most important sources

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.

Emissions of greenhouse gases in Norway, 1990-2009

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).

Emissions will rise unless more measures are introduced

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.

Many instruments in place

CO2 tax

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.

The Emission Trading Scheme from Climate and Pollution Agency on Vimeo.

Domestic emissions trading scheme

Norway established a domestic emissions trading scheme in 2005. In 2008 this trading scheme became part of the European Trading Scheme (ETS), with harmonised legislation with the EU. Approximately 40 per cent of Norway’s total greenhouse gas emissions are covered by the emission trading scheme. From 2012 aviation will be covered by the ETS.

Greenhouse gas emissions and the EU ETS

To prepare new sectors currently not covered by the ETS, for their future introduction to the scheme, a voluntary agreement between the metallurgical and mineral industries and the Government was signed in August 2009. For the period of 2008 – 2012 the emissions from this particular industry will be limited to 6.2 million tonnes CO2-equivalents, a 44 per cent reduction from this sector’s emissions in 1990.

In 2008 Norway introduced a voluntary carbon offset scheme where companies, authorities and persons not covered by the ETS can offset their emissions. For every ton offset in the scheme Norway deletes one unit.

Tax and restrictions on waste disposal

As of July 1st 2009 Norway banned the disposal of wet organic waste on landfills. This is expected to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions by 2 per cent. There is also a tax on final waste disposal to encourage waste recovery and minimise the use of landfills.

Tax and refund scheme for HFCs and PFC

In 2003 Norway introduced taxes on the import and export of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) and perfluorocarbons (PFCs), followed by annually decreasing allowances of import. As of January 2010 Norway banned all import and export of all ozone depleting gases. Most of these gases are also greenhouse gases with a strong global warming potential.

Local climate plans

The Norwegian Government encourages all local authorities to develop local climate plans to reduce the emissions locally.

Management of forests

As the Norwegian Arctic is gradually covered with more forests as a result of climate change, an active management of these areas might contribute to additional sequestration of CO2. Active management of other forest areas has also proven to be an effective measure.

Reducing emissions from agriculture

The Norwegian government have made plans for both reducing the emissions from agriculture and increase its sequestration of CO2. Different regimes contributing to the development of new renewable energy such as wind is beginning to have an effect, and research both within the fields of reducing emissions and binding climate gases are highly prioritized.