Emissions fall but few are cheering

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Norway’s emissions have fallen to their lowest level in 14 years, but the government won’t take credit and environmentalists aren’t cheering either. The decline is pegged directly to the global finance crisis that led to lower industrial activity, and not to political efforts.

Norway's emissions, like those from this cellulose plant at Tofte, have declined but not because of political will. PHOTO: Views and News

State statistics bureau SSB reported that so-called “climate emissions” (klimautslipp, carbon emissions blamed for climate change) fell by 5.4 percent in 2009. It was the second annual decline in a row and left Norway with a total of 50.8 million tons of emissions of carbon equivalents last year.

That’s the lowest level since 1995 and comes when government officials are under pressure to reduce emissions to help reverse climate change. Norway’s oil and gas industry and small population have long ranked Norway, which likes to portray itself as environmentally conscious, embarrassingly high on international lists of emissions per capita.

A 5.4 percent reduction would appear to be good news, but in this case, SSB attributed it to reductions in industrial output and heavy transport, in turn a result of the finance crisis and lower demand for goods and services.

The reduction is not the result, according to SSB, of political measures aimed at reducing carbon emissions. Just recently, Norway’s coalition government has been the target of criticism over further delays to its much-hyped plans to build a carbon recapture facility at Statoil’s Mongstad plant.

Britta Hoem of SSB also thinks Norway’s emissions will start rising again when the effects of the finance crisis subside and the economy picks up again. Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg agrees.

“Emissions will vary from year to year,” he told reporters. “I won’t take the credit for the decline we’ve seen over the past two years.”

Stoltenberg was nonetheless glad that emissions are down. “It means that considerable amounts of carbon dioxide have not been released into the atmosphere,” he said.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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