Meld. St. 7 (2014-2015)

Long-term plan for research and higher education 2015–2024

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4 Climate, environment and clean energy

4.1 Direction

The climate and environmental changes we are seeing now will have major consequences for the natural environment, for society and for business and industry, both in Norway and globally. Norway has endorsed the goal of limiting global warming to two degrees, compared with the temperature before the industrial revolution at the end of the 1700s. We must cut greenhouse gas emissions to curtail rising temperatures and avoid more dramatic climate change that cannot be reversed. At the same time, we must make sure that we pursue appropriate adaptations to a changing climate.

The Government has an ambitious climate, environment and energy policy which includes objectives such as achieving long-term adaptation to a low-emission society by 2050, strengthening the climate compromise and a commitment to environmental technology and eco-friendly energy technologies. These are all important goals for addressing climate and environmental challenges, and they also provide a good opportunity for the Norwegian business community to compete in the growing technology markets in these areas.

Fossil energy consumption is the largest source of greenhouse gas emissions and many of the climate changes already observed. At the same time, global energy consumption is growing at a very rapid pace. This is due to factors such as population growth, significant economic growth in densely populated countries such as China and India, and the fact that an increasing number of people are able to emerge from poverty. In order to deal with the poverty issue and the climate challenge in parallel, growth in the economy and prosperity must take place without corresponding increases in emissions from fossil energy sources. This means converting to a low-emission society with increased production from clean energy sources, where energy is used more efficiently and where energy production from fossil energy sources is combined with safe and efficient capture and storage of CO2. This change must also be carried out in a manner that is eco-friendly. We need more knowledge about how such a change can be achieved, also with a growing population.

According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Norway can expect a warmer, wetter climate with more frequent occurrences of extreme precipitation. Among other things, this will lead to changes in fish populations and in the conditions for food production on land. There could be outbreaks of new plant and animal diseases, and we may see more pests and disease carriers that spread disease between animals and human beings. The changes will also result in more flooding, landslides, avalanches and erosion, which can in turn lead to hazards to life and health, and major material loss. We can expect more frequent interruptions in rail traffic and more closed roads, as well as more power outages and faults in the mobile network. We need to have a better understanding of climate change if society is to be able to adapt to the changes.

The effects of climate change on nature and society largely affect all sectors, and efforts to obtain new insight and to develop necessary expertise will be coordinated in the follow-up of the long-term plan.

Worldwide loss of natural environments has taken place on a large scale for quite some time. Next to climate change, the loss of natural diversity poses the greatest challenge for the environment and for human utilisation of what nature produces. Dealing with this challenge demands better understanding of the ecosystems and how we can make sure that social development occurs within a sustainable framework.

Norwegian research and education communities form the vanguard within several areas of climate and environmental research, as well as in important areas dealing with eco-friendly energy. Norway's business sector is also well-developed in many of the areas where greater efforts towards research and higher education have significant potential for value creation. This commitment must be integrated across technical disciplines such as natural and social science, technology and the humanities in order to understand and handle the effects of these changes, as well as to address the need for change in society and the business sector in a cost-efficient manner.

A long-term commitment to knowledge and expertise in the climate, the environment and eco-friendly energy will help us meet the challenges described above. The point of departure for this commitment must be based on the priorities and recommendations discussed in the national R&D strategies Energi21, Klima21 and Miljø21.

The Government intends to boost its commitment to research and higher education relating to the climate, environment and eco-friendly energy to achieve:

  • developing Norwegian technology to address global climate, environment and energy challenges

  • change-over to a low-emission society

  • better understanding of climate changes and good adaptation to deal with them

  • social development adapted to environmental considerations

Developing Norwegian technology and changing into a low-emission society will be our highest priorities.

Textbox 4.1 Norwegian researchers are solid contributors to the UN Climate Panel

In 2011, the Research Council of Norway appointed an international committee to look at and assess Norwegian climate research. The evaluation revealed that Norwegian climate researchers published more per capita than any other country. Researchers around the world refer to Norwegian climate articles more often than the average for scientific articles related to climate issues. This confirms the good reputation of Norwegian climate research, and the substantial international significance of this Norwegian research. When the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) presented its fifth report in the autumn of 2013, much of the material could be credited to 19 authors from Norwegian expert communities. The Norwegian researchers contributed both to knowledge about the climate science basis, as well as to information about effects and measures designed to handle them.

4.2 Norwegian technology for global climate, energy and environment challenges

Promising technology markets

Norwegian technology will contribute to solving global challenges. Technologies that directly or indirectly benefit the environment are crucial in solving the major climate, energy and environment challenges facing the world today.

Products and solutions in the field of climate, environment and energy technologies currently comprise one of the world's most promising technology markets. Norway has a strong business sector, good expert environments and sound education within areas such as solar energy and materials, CCS, hydropower, eco-friendly ship technology, eco-friendly oil and gas production, waste management and recovery, environmental monitoring and green buildings. Research and higher education of a high international standard will contribute toward exploiting such advantages in the new technology markets. Norwegian communities will be attractive partners in international climate, energy and environment research. This relates particularly to participation in Horizon 2020, and the development of the European Research Area, ERA. One example is Norway's participation in ECCSEL, a Norwegian initiative aimed at coordinating investment and use of the research infrastructure for capture and storage of CO2 in Europe. SINTEF and NTNU lead this effort. Building up modern laboratory facilities at NTNU is crucial. Up-to-date laboratories are also necessary for conducting fundamental technology research, small-scale testing, and to attract top-notch researchers and the best students from around the world.

Knowledge and expertise for good, reasonable technology solutions

A large part of the conversion to a low-emission society must take place in connection with production and consumption of energy. Efforts must particularly be devoted to energy efficiency, clean energy and carbon capture and storage. This is necessary to meet the energy needs of a growing population. Norway must be a vanguard nation in clean energy consumption and production of various types of clean energy. To accomplish this, we must fortify our basis of knowledge and we must train capable professionals who can utilise this knowledge to find good solutions. For example, we need more information that can unite technological, environmental and socioeconomic aspects that can ensure sustainable growth in clean energy production. We also need new knowledge to enable us to develop better, cheaper low-emission solutions for the transport sector. There is already a large and expanding market for low-emission solutions.

Developing environmental technology requires close interaction between those who deliver technical solutions, and those who represent other strong sectors facing environmental challenges. Examples of such industries may include the aquaculture industry, where environmental impacts create challenges such as salmon louse, or the petroleum industry which faces challenges as regards emissions and use of chemicals.

Textbox 4.2 Best in the world on oil spill preparedness, also under difficult conditions

Norwegian company NorLense has developed new oil spill response equipment. Traditional oil spill equipment has functioned best when the oil is on the water surface, and under moderate weather conditions. NorLense has taken response equipment a step further, developing an oil trawl and a separator boom capable of recovering oil under more demanding current, wind and wave conditions, including oil that has sunk into the sea. The company is a world leader in offshore boom systems, and delivers equipment to the oil industry and regulatory authorities around the world.

4.3 Conversion to a low-emission society

The Government's long-term objectives of achieving a low-emission society will entail significant change. This will require a better understanding of what a low-emission society will look like, what it will take to bring us there, and the social challenges inherent in this process. We need to have a better comprehension of which social benefits and opportunities lie in low-emission development, as well as more insight into the economic foundation.

Conversion into a low-emission society requires comprehensive research and innovation efforts and broad-based cooperation between social science, the humanities, technology subjects and natural science. The education programmes must be designed to ensure that the experts we train in Norway will become positive forces and key players in this conversion.

Knowledge about progressive, modern urban development contributes to helping the public administration and authorities to plan and organise our cities for climate and environment-friendly transport and more efficient energy consumption.

Resource exploitation, development of environmental technology and eco-friendly energy technology, along with new production methods in industry are other important areas of knowledge. The business community is a key element in the conversion to a low-emission society. We need a better understanding of how business and industry can function as an engine of change. We need to know more about what stimulates the conversion processes, and about the interplay between business and industry, employers and employees, and the authorities. The social consequences of the conversion process are key elements in this context.

Norway has good prospects within the transport sector for making a change toward becoming a low-emission society. We have a shipbuilding industry that develops both electric ferries and gas-powered ships. Electrification in the maritime sector is a very real potential development. Norway has a high number of electric cars and represents an early market for such vehicles and for technology that can make it easier to charge the cars and pay for charging. Transport of goods accounts for almost half of road-based greenhouse gas emissions, and we need more information to ensure technology development and a transfer from roadways to seaways and railways.

4.4 Better understanding of climate change and good, relevant adaptation

What does adapting to climate change really mean? Who will have to make this adaptation and how? The scope largely depends on how well we manage to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and how fast we can achieve such a reduction.

Climate change represents one of the greatest international social challenges the world faces – both today and most likely for a very long time to come. If we are to implement targeted, cost-effective measures across all sectors of society, Norway and the international community must have research-based knowledge about climate change and its effects at a local, regional and global level. We need greater insight into how climate change will affect ecosystems and different industries, including the primary industries. If we are to handle climate change, we must develop solutions and materials that are robust as regards climate, for infrastructure, construction and buildings, and the general surroundings.

Textbox 4.3 How vulnerable is your municipality?

How vulnerable are the citizens in your municipality in the event of floods, wind, landslides or other natural events that may be due to climate change? Researchers at NTNU have drawn up maps showing physical and social vulnerability in Norway. Storm events cause the greatest material damage in Norway, followed by flooding. Landslides/avalanches claim the most human lives, but cause less material damage overall than storms and floods. There is great variation in how vulnerable municipalities are as regards various types of natural damage. At the same time, social aspects can have a significant impact on how a society can deal with extreme events. Several studies conducted after natural disasters show that age, gender, ethnicity, income and assets have a great impact on an individual's ability to deal with and emerge from a crisis situation. For example, children and the elderly are less mobile than others, and immigrants often have fewer financial resources, smaller social networks or language issues. These groups are often hard-hit by natural disasters, and knowledge about such social aspects can make municipalities better equipped to develop good emergency response plans.

Research-based knowledge and expertise can help municipalities map their vulnerabilities, prevent risk and carry out suitable measures adapted to local conditions. Norway has built up good climate research centres, particularly as regards climate system research, but also within social science climate research. We also need good professional communities that can train experts with the expertise municipalities need in their work to adapt to climate change.

Social science and humanistic pPerspectives from the social sciences and the humanities provide important contributions to understanding how climate research can be made more relevant. Social science and the humanities help to understand how climate and environment measures can be managed and implemented effectively.

Knowledge is also needed as regards positive opportunities that may arise from climate change, such as whether this could result in increased energy production from hydropower and wind power, or new areas for food production.

Climate change is particularly evident in the polar areas; therefore, climate research plays a key role in both Norwegian and international polar research. A number of research and monitoring systems are found in and around Svalbard for the purpose of studying climate and ecosystem changes, ocean currents and the atmosphere. The Norwegian authorities regulate and grant permission to conduct such activities, and facilitate making Svalbard attractive to researchers from all over the world. Norway's role as host and coordinator of the major international participation in operation and use of these research and monitoring systems will become even more important.

4.5 Societal development adapted to the environment

The greatest environmental threats in a global context are loss of natural diversity, pressure on land areas, natural resources and cultural history values, the spread of foreign species, outbreaks of new plant and animal diseases and more environmental toxins. These challenges are exacerbated by climate change. Moreover, they make nature less robust in relation to climate change. We need better comprehension of the interplay between climate change and other environmental impact factors, and new knowledge about how different environmental and climate measures can support each other. Many of the greatest challenges associated with climate change are linked to loss of and changes in the natural environment.

Healthy, functional ecosystems are necessary to address climate change, and sustaining such ecosystems is therefore a vital part of the solution.

Demographic changes and the emergence of larger towns and cities require a sound basis of information to develop policies for comprehensive design of residential and industrial areas and eco-friendly and efficient energy and transport solutions.

We also need more knowledge so we can curb pollution and reduce food wastage, as well as efficient resource exploitation throughout the chain from raw material production to consumption.

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