New ‘climate cure’ after warm January

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It’s official: January ended as the next-warmest ever in Norway, with nine counties setting new records for high temperatures in the middle of what’s supposed to be winter. State officials hope a new “climate cure” will help, if everyone takes the proposed medicine.

Instead of paying other countries to cut their carbon emissions to hinder climate change, Norway’s new “Climate Cure 2030” program aims at massively cutting carbon emissions within Norway over the next decade. PHOTO: KMD

Norway’s state Meteorologic Institute reports that southeastern Norway experienced the warmest January since records started being kept 120 years ago. All counties south of Nordland and Troms og Finnmark recorded new temperature highs, such as the 14C (57.2F) registered at Rissa in Trøndelag on January 20.

Average temperatures in Oslo were 7.1 degrees over what the meteorologists consider normal and no snow fell at all in the sprawling Norwegian capital until January 26. It was only scattered over higher elevations and central Oslo didn’t get snow until late last Thursday night (January 31). It amounted to less than 3 centimeters and had melted by mid-morning on Friday. Another weekend went by with poor if any skiing opportunities.

“The tendency is clear,” climate researcher Jostein Mamen at the Meteorologic Institute told news bureau NTB. “Winters are milder, and even though we can occasionally still get a good, old-fashioned winter, it will be longer and longer between them.”

Some areas of Northern Norway above the Arctic Circle also reported an unusually warm January, with average temperatures 4.2 degrees higher than normal in Bodø and 2.9 degrees higher in Tromsø, which nonetheless has had a lot of snow.

Politicians finally reacting
Climate change is thus finally winning much more attention from state politicians who’ve long been accused of not taking it seriously enough. The Norwegian government also continues to be strongly criticized over its decisions to keep opening up new areas of the Arctic to oil exploration and production. As debate rages over whether that can continue, the oil industry itself faces stricter rules over its own carbon emissions. Oil fields are being electrified and plans revived for carbon capture and storage.

The initiative unveiled by new Climate and Environment Minister Sveinung Rotevatn on Friday is called Klimakur 2030 (Climate Cure 2030) and mostly affects Norwegian consumers in general. It was ordered by the government, put together by an expert group led by state environmental directorate (Miljødirektoratet) and involved the state highway, coastal management, agricultural, waterways and energy departments.

The chief of Norway’s environmental directorate, Ellen Hambro (left), handed over the new “Climate Cure” report to Climate and Environment Minister Sveinung Rotevatn, with Norway’s oil minister and two state secretaries standing by. PHOTO: KMD/Martin Lerberg Fossum

It points to 60 various measures that can make it possible for Norway to cut half of its emissions that aren’t subject to the EU’s system for climate quotas that cover the industrial, petroleum and aviation sectors, by 2030. That includes Norway’s own transport, agricultural, garbage, energy and heating sectors.

State and local governments are supposed to contribute with such things as much-improved public transport systems (as an alternative to private car use), carbon capture and storage projects, electrification of public-sector vehicles and equipment and better recycling programs, not least when it comes to sorting plastics and textiles.

Ordinary citizens face major changes and challenges as well. Norwegians are already being told to eat less meat, more fruit and vegetables and locally produced food, and to throw out far less food. The selection of food to buy in Norwegian grocery stores is likely to change, with more flexible “sell-by” dates, less red meat available and more organic products on offer. Newspaper Aftenposten reported that Norwegians will be urged to plan grocery shopping more carefully and lower demands for what food looks like.

The new food trends pose challenges for Norway’s highly regulated and subsidized agricultural industry, but also opportunities. With meat production accounting for a large portion of global emissions, thousands of farm jobs may disappear. Only around 4 percent of Norwegian land is farmable and only small portions of that are suitable for raising fruit, vegetables, berries and grain. As much as 10 percent of current farmland may go out of production, and food prices (already among the highest in the world because of import barriers) will likely rise. Proponents, however, point to healthier diets and innovation, which can ease transitions for farmers who’ve already been producing too much meat and dumping it abroad.

Biggest changes in transport sector
The largest portion of emission cuts are expected in the transport sector. The Climate Cure report notes that in order to achieve it, no less than 100 percent of all new car sales must be electric by the end of 2025. The same applies to all utility vehicles from those used by delivery and repair firms.

Asked whether that’s realistic, long-time climate advocate and Member of Parliament Kari Elisabeth Kaski of the Socialist Left party (SV) conceded there was little time to achieve such a goal, “but we’re already on the way.” Norway already has among the world’s highest portion of electric vehicles, even though it’s an oil-producting country. Buses and ferries are already being electrified, and rail service is being improved.

Rotevatn, the new climate and environment minister from the Liberal Party, promises that public transport will improve, that the air will become cleaner, and that “many of these changes are already underway” in Norway. A spokesman for the Greens Party (MDG) also believes the Climate Cure programs are necessary and “will result in a much better society.”

The goal is to meet emission reduction goals after years of failing to do so, mostly because of Norway’s oil industry. Only the conservative Progress Party, which just left Norway’s conservative government coalition, expressed skepticism and claimed the Climate Cure program amounted to “symbol politics.” They’d rather see Norway continue to pay other countries to cut their emissions, but that’s now largely viewed as old-fashioned. If Norway is to retain credibility regarding emission cuts, noted MP Stefan Heggelund of the Conservative Party, it must cut more emissions at home.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund