Norway plans zero emissions by 2050

Oslo, Norway – Norway plans to cut its net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg has said. The world’s fifth largest oil exporter wants to set the ‘carbon neutral’ bar for other industrialized nations to follow.

Despite an economy that is heavily reliant on oil and gas revenue, most Norwegians are very concerned about climate change and would like to see emissions reductions, polls show. Climate change could alter the way of life for many in the northern country.

The proposed cuts would be achieved by reducing domestic emissions, and offsetting the remainder by implementing GHG-reduction projects abroad or purchasing carbon offsets on international markets. Specifics have not been established.

Stoltenberg said his proposals are backed by his cabinet and by the majority of the Norwegian parliament. The country will also make deeper cuts than required by its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol, and reduce emissions by 30 percent by 2020, he added.

These are stronger goals than set by the European Union, which has declared it will cut its GHG emissions by 20 percent by 2020, and by 30 percent if other industrialized nations make similar commitments.

Norway is required by Kyoto to limit a rise in emissions to one percent above 1990 levels by 2008-2012, a goal which it will tighten by 10 percentage points. The country’s GHG emissions were 8.5 percent above 1990 levels in 2005. Emissions per capita are about 11 tonnes per year, almost three times the world average.

Norway faces a large challenge in meeting its new targets, say analysts, and a key question is how much of the cuts will come from domestic reductions which could impact the offshore oil and gas industry. Some say the cuts can be more easily and economically achieved by funding reductions in countries such as China or in Eastern Europe.

Without providing details, Stoltenberg seems to agree. “It’s much more important to reduce emissions in the world than to impose pain on ourselves,” he said. “Measures should be taken where they can have the greatest effect.”

Norway already has the equivalent of a carbon tax in place, and is planning a cap-and-trade system for industry.

There are options for improved environmental performance in the oil industry. Norway has worked on developing carbon capture and sequestration technology, currently operating a large scale program at Statoil’s Sleipner in the North Sea where carbon dioxide is stored in the seabed.

Statoil and Shell are also planning plan the world’s biggest carbon capture and storage project for the Norwegian coast.

Under the scheme, due to start in 2010-2012, Statoil would capture CO2 from a huge, 860-megawatt gas-fired power plant to be built at the company’s Tjeldbergodden methanol complex. The CO2 would then be piped to Shell’s Draugen oilfield off Norway - and later also to Statoil’s Heidrun field - and injected into subsea reservoirs to force oil to the surface.

In other areas, Norway will have trouble reducing emissions. The country’s electricity is 100% supplied by hydroelectric power, so transportation emissions and gas heating would need to be targeted. The country has plans to expand natural gas-fired generation as most of the nation’s feasible river sites have already been dammed.

Norway’s pledge raises interesting issues for Canada. As a primary resource and energy provider, Canada will face significant challenges in reducing its own emissions. What Norway’s commitment does demonstrate is that climate policy will differ between all nations, and emissions reductions will need to be achieved considering a variety economic, social, and environmental factors.

For More Information: The Guardian

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