Norway not ready for extreme weather

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Climate researchers have slammed Norway’s lack of planning for destructive storms, after extreme weather system ‘Hilde’ ravaged parts of the country earlier this month. As more new storms continued to hammer Norway this week, the issue is taking on some urgency.

“We have unclear responsibilities between the state and the municipalities,” researcher Asbjørn Aaheim of the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research – Oslo (CICERO) told newspaper Dagsavisen. “Today’s system is a dream for someone who wants to study how things don’t function.”

Trude Rauken, a public governance and regulation researcher at CICERO, says a major problem is that municipalities only make five-year plans.

“Thus they don’t have the capacity to plan further ahead,” she says. “We lack a national authority that can assist the municipalities with the challenges that come from surface water. More surface water is a result of a changed precipitation pattern and a changed run-off pattern.” Rauken says the road, rail and electricity networks are most at risk of damage.

CICERO’s Aaheim also says it’s time to review the country’s natural disaster laws. He says shared public liability for damage caused by natural disasters doesn’t encourage people to take care where they build and pay for expensive risk assessments.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg has admitted new homebuilding rules are needed after storm system Hilde caused landslides in Sogn and Fjordane in western Norway, reports Dagsavisen. The municipalities are already responsible for surveying areas prone to rockslides.

Solberg told national broadcaster NRK that municipalities should have liability from the point when planning permission is granted. “I think that’s much simpler than the government overruling,” she says.

More storms, this time with hurricane-force winds in the mountains, roared through large portions of the country again this week. Trees were blown over and thousands of homes and businesses lost power, but there were no immediate reports of structural damage after the latest round of extreme weather on Thursday.

newsinenglish.no/Emily Woodgate