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New Year´s Address 2020

National radio and television, 1 January 2020.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg
Prime Minister Erna Solberg. Credit: Håkon Mosvold Larsen/NTB scanpix

Around the world, many New Year’s babies are sleeping peacefully in their mothers’ arms.

A newborn baby knows little about the world he or she has been born into.

Here in Norway, many young people have expressed great concern for the climate over the last year. And with good reason.

A new mother in Malawi and a young Norwegian climate activist may have different dreams for the future.

But they also have a lot in common.

They both dream of freedom and security.

Of the opportunity to realise their potential through education and work.

Of a clean environment and climate security.

Of what we call a ‘sustainable world’.

Some years ago, all the countries of the world came together to discuss how these dreams could be realised.

The answer they reached was the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs were adopted in 2015.

And we are to reach them by 2030.

Many people may think that the SDGs are only important for developing countries. That is not the case.

But the most pressing challenges will differ from country to country.

For example, when it comes to SDG4 on education, the main challenge in some countries is to ensure that all children can go to school. Here in Norway, the main challenge is to ensure that more young people complete upper secondary school.

Many of the goals are equally important for all of us. Because we all breathe the same air, and fish in the same global ocean.

2020 will be an important year for the SDGs.

We will take stock of what we have achieved in the first five years.

And it is also the year climate commitments under the Paris Agreement will start to apply.

 

We know enough today to state categorically that human-influenced climate change is dangerous.

It is a threat to world food production.

Rising sea levels will be a serious problem for many countries.

In Norway, more storms, floods and landslides can be expected to have a negative impact on people’s lives and health.

The landslide in Jølster this summer was a tragic example of how serious the impacts of climate change can be.

We often hear that Norway isn’t doing anything for the climate.

This is not the case.

Norway has pursued an increasingly stringent climate policy ever since the carbon tax was introduced almost 30 years ago.

Norway’s emissions are at almost the same level today as in 1990.

Despite the fact that our population has grown by more than a million.

And despite the fact that we have experienced tremendous economic growth.

But in the time ahead, emissions need to be reduced dramatically.

The measures we have already introduced will cut emissions by more than 13%.

But even that is not enough.

We have promised to cut our emissions by 45%.

As of 2021, we will draw up an annual emissions budget.

Every year, we will reduce the emissions ceiling. 

This will be tough.

And I know that many people are concerned.

People who are dependent on driving wonder how they will get to work.

Not least people in rural areas, where charging points for electric vehicles are still few and far between.

It is important for the Government to pursue a policy that allows our everyday lives to run smoothly.

Many people are worried about their jobs.

I can’t promise that everything will be the same as before.

On the contrary, it will be more important than ever that we adapt to change.

Change is also creating new opportunities and new jobs. For example in the area of green shipping and ferries, where Norway is at the forefront of developments. 

Many people are asking questions about our oil and gas industry.

Even in a sustainable world, there will be a need for oil and gas.

This is why we shouldn’t close down an industry that gives many thousands of people jobs, and that helps to finance our welfare system.

But the industry must prepare itself for a decline in demand once climate policy becomes stricter.

And it must cut its own emissions.

It is therefore very encouraging that production from the new Johan Sverdrup field is almost emission-free.

Here, a land-based power supply has replaced gas-fired turbines.

I hope the industry will find more solutions like this in the time ahead.

The oil and gas sector, too, needs to make use of new technology if we are to reach our climate targets.

If we opt for symbolic measures that are costly and ineffective, it will be more difficult to reach our climate targets, and we will also undermine our welfare system.

If we opt for sound and effective measures, we will be able to cut emissions faster, at the same time as we will have enough resources to invest in the education system and treat more people in the health service.

We must choose solutions that ensure fair burden-sharing. That give people a chance to adjust.

And we can all do our part.

When we need a new car, we can choose a more climate-friendly one.

If we have the option of using public transport, cycling or walking, we can do so.

Each decision we make may not in itself be significant, but remember that it is the sum of all our small decisions that makes a difference.

The same applies to safeguarding life in the oceans.

In Norway, much of our value creation is based on ocean resources.

Clean oceans are essential for many of our jobs and provide important revenues for our welfare system.

Nine-year-old Iben Ekholdt from Nittedal wrote to me because she felt sorry for whales, fish and other animals that are suffering because they have ingested plastic.

I would like to pass on Iben’s appeal: we must all pick up our rubbish.

Every spring, children, young people and other volunteers pick up plastic from coastal areas and river banks.

If we all make an effort to dispose of plastic properly, there will be less of a need to clean up.

And there will be less of a threat to marine life.

We must do our part to reach SDG14 on life below water.

We call planet Earth the ‘blue planet’. The world’s climate and the world’s oceans bind us all together, so that all people on Earth share a common future.

That is why Norway is taking important initiatives at the international level to promote sustainable use of the world’s oceans.

 

Norway’s wealth means that we are able to help other countries reach the SDGs. 

The Government has given particular priority to promoting girls’ education all over the world.

Thankfully, progress is being made.

Worldwide, there are now almost as many girls as boys in primary education.

But more girls than boys are dropping out of secondary school.

Just because they are girls, their tasks at home take priority.

Not only is this unfair for the girls concerned; it also has huge negative impacts. 

Quality education for girls boosts countries’ economies and makes it easier to prevent child marriage.

Girls’ education will therefore continue to be a priority area for Norway in the years ahead.

Conflicts and wars are among the factors that are most detrimental to children’s schooling.  

In Syria, virtually a whole generation of children has missed out on the opportunity of going to school.

In the time ahead, Norway will do more to promote children’s education in conflict zones.

This autumn, I met some Norwegian soldiers in Iraq. Just a few weeks’ later, they had to take cover from missile attacks.

This is a reminder of the risks Norwegian soldiers and aid workers abroad are facing.

To make the world a better place.

To help ensure that all children can go to school.

I would like to send a special greeting to all those who are serving Norway abroad, and who have to spend the holiday far away from their loved ones. Thank you for the work you are doing on behalf of us all.

 

The SDGs challenge us here in Norway, too.

The Government has identified a number of areas that we need to focus on. These include school dropout rates, mental health, and child poverty.

The aim is to create a society that offers opportunities for all.

If we succeed in this, we will have a society with less inequality and where fewer people feel excluded.

That is what we are working to achieve.

As of New Year, all municipalities will be required to offer psychologist services.  

We are increasing child benefit.

More young people are completing upper secondary education. Three out of four now finish upper secondary school.

We are moving in the right direction, but we still have more to do.

On Christmas Day we received the sad news that The King’s former son-in-law, Ari Behn, had taken his own life.

Norway has lost an innovative artist and author. His family and friends have lost a beloved family member and good friend.

I send my warmest thoughts to all those who have lost a loved one during the last year.

In September, I opened up my home on World Suicide Prevention Day.

In 2018, 674 people took their lives.

That is 674 too many.

And these people had 674 different reasons for doing so.

Whatever the reason, we must do what we can to reduce this number.

Being open – having the courage to talk about feelings – is crucial.

Among the people who came to my open house event were Andrea Bratt Mæhlum and Anna Uvizjeva.

They hadn’t met before, but they have kept in touch since.

They urge us all to give one another time to talk. Time to show one other that we care.

This is good advice, and I would like to pass it on to all of you this evening.

In several countries, an increasing number of young people are suffering from mental health problems. This is particularly the case for girls.

We don’t know why.

The Government therefore intends to launch an initiative to identify the causes. Because knowing the causes will help us to find more effective responses.

But one thing is certain. It’s always important to show that we care.

 

Two people who care about all of us are our beloved King and Queen.

Together with the rest of the Royal Family, they do a tremendous job.

For Norwegian companies abroad.

For inclusion – helping to make everyone feel that they are part of Norwegian society.

For the environment and climate – issues that the younger generations in the Royal Family are also very concerned about.

I would like to thank His Majesty The King and the rest of the Royal Family for all that they do for Norway.

 

For many people, the Royal Family is an important part of what binds us together.

Across political and religious divides, across age groups and origins.

The confidence we have in one another is also important.

The confidence that we will be met with goodwill, that everyone is doing their best, and will contribute if they can.

This autumn, the uncovering of serious mistakes in the processing of social security cases – the so-called NAV scandal – has shaken many people’s confidence in the public authorities.

I can understand that.

From today’s vantage point, it is difficult to understand how such a serious fault in the system could have continued for so long and affected so many people.

On behalf of the Government, I would like to apologise to those who have been affected.

We will do everything we can to make amends for the injustice that has been done.

The whole issue will be thoroughly looked into, so that we can learn from what went wrong.

We must prevent anything like this from ever happening again.

Confidence in the ability of the authorities and the courts to interpret legislation correctly is of fundamental importance to our society.

In the time ahead, we will have to work hard to win back that confidence.

 

Both Norway and the rest of world are facing huge challenges.

The UN Sustainable Development Goals address many of them.

In the media, we mostly hear about what is going badly in the world.

It is easy to get the impression that the problems are insurmountable.

But there are many areas where things are moving in the right direction.

Fewer people are living in extreme poverty.

Fewer women die in childbirth and more newborn babies survive.

Norway’s emissions of greenhouse gases are going down.

More young people are completing their schooling.

At the same time, much still remains to be done.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are very ambitious.

But they give the whole word a common direction.

Companies are increasingly taking the SDGs into account in their work.

So are schools and universities.

And NGOs and other voluntary organisations were among the first to do so.

Our aim is that, in ten years’ time, today’s New Year’s babies will see that we have achieved these global goals.

Admittedly, we have a long way to go before then.

But since we know where we are heading, it is just a matter of setting off and keeping going. Everyone can do something. Together we will succeed.

Happy New Year!

 

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