Norway falls in climate rankings

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Norway is not doing its share in the global effort to meet climate goals by cutting carbon emissions, according to international groups of independent climate researchers. The groups gave Norway a lower score this year as their Climate Action Tracker (CAT) ranked how various countries are trying to limit global warming.

Ny Ålesund Symposium 2014

Melting ice in the Arctic is one of the most visible signs of climate change. International researchers don’t think Norway is doing enough to stop it. PHOTO: Klima- og Miljødepartementet

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Wednesday that Norway’s CAT score for 2015 was lowered to “medium” from the “sufficient” score it had held for the past few years. Norway is now also far down the scale from CAT’s top score of “role model” held by Bhutan and the Maldives. Only Costa Rica and Papua New Guinea now hold the “sufficient” score, while Norway has dropped down to the “medium” score also held by countries including Brazil, Chile, China, India, the US, Mexico and the EU among others.

Norway has contended it is doing its fair share of keeping global warming below 2 degrees compared to pre-industrial levels, but CAT believes the claim is based on a “misunderstanding of the global cost-effective emissions pathways.”

Emissions have risen, not fallen
CAT noted that the Norwegian government has announced an intention to reduce emissions by 40 percent below 1990 industrial levels by 2030, in line with the EU. It also noted, however, that emissions from Norway, which has a large oil and gas industry, have increased since 1990 and emissions from offshore oil and gas activities alone have doubled between 1990 and 2010. That increase came despite Norway’s carbon tax on petroleum activities, which CAT characterized as the country’s “most important instrument to tackle emissions.”

The researchers behind CAT therefore do not think Norway will be able to reach its 2020 and 2030 targets even though the country has put in place many policies and measures to contain carbon emissions and promote the use of renewable energy. Norway’s electricity sector is almost carbon neutral, thanks to its waterfalls and hydroelectric facilities, while its “oil-related activities” and transportation sector are the biggest sources of emissions, according to CAT.

For details of CAT’s reasoning behind the assessment, click here (external link).

“This shows that most industrial countries (including Norway) have not set ambitious-enough goals to avoid the worst results of emissions,” Lars Haltbrekken, leader of Norway’s chapter of Friends of the Earth (Naturvernforbund), told NRK. “The longer we wait (to make significant emissions cuts at home), the tougher the measures will have to be.”

Tine Sundtoft, Norway's government minister in charge of climate and environmental issues, at a "Green Agenda" meeting last fall. PHOTO: Klima- og miljødepartementet

Tine Sundtoft, Norway’s government minister in charge of climate and environmental issues, is being accused of having a climate agenda that’s not sufficiently ambitious. She retorted that it was “unreasonable” for international climate researchers to lower Norway’s climate score. PHOTO: Klima- og miljødepartementet

Norway’s environmental minister Tine Sundtoft of the Conservative Party rejected the criticism and continued to claim that Norway’s goals for emissions cuts are in line with the scenario from the UN’s climate panel. She thinks it was “unreasonable” that Norway scored lower this year, and still has high hopes that the next UN climate summit in Paris will result in a new international agreement.

Meanwhile, the government in which Sundtoft sits continues to open new areas of the Arctic to oil and gas exploration. Low oil prices have raised the hopes of environmentalists that the oil companies themselves will pare back activities because they may not be profitable.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund