Climate and energy

Norway has endorsed long-term goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and the work on reducing greenhouse gas emissions is an important part of the Government’s sustainability strategy.

That global warming is a reality and that anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases have been the main cause of climate change in the last 50 years are among the main conclusions of the UN climate panel. Norway has endorsed long-term goals for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, and the work on reducing greenhouse gas emissions is an important part of the Government’s sustainability strategy.

All decisions on the localisation and design of industry, housing and infrastructure will affect energy consumption and emissions from transport and buildings for a long time to come. Since the county and municipal authorities are responsible for the planning, they have an important role to play in the work to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Climate-smart planning today is an important contribution to tomorrow’s low-emission society. Plans that result in high emissions, on the other hand, will weaken the possibility of achieving a low-emission society.

Energy efficiency, facilitating the use of renewable energy, and heating solutions based on energy carriers other than electricity, oil and gas, are important elements of energy policy and they contribute to increasing supply security within the framework of climate and environmental policy considerations. Good planning can facilitate the development of district heating systems and other community heating solutions, and the demand for energy can be reduced by taking account of local climate conditions when deciding where to erect new buildings.

The building sector is currently responsible for a large share of Norway’s energy consumption, but the heating of buildings nevertheless only accounts for less than four per cent of greenhouse gas emissions. Emissions can be reduced by phasing out fossil energy sources and choosing climate-friendly building materials.

The transport sector, including fisheries, domestic shipping and other mobile sources, accounted for 32 per cent of national greenhouse gas emissions in 2009. Of this, road traffic alone accounted for 19 per cent. The demand for transport will continue to grow. To reduce emissions, policy instruments that affect the scope of travelling and chosen means of transport must be seen in conjunction with the introduction of means of transport with lower emissions.

More coordinated land use and transport planning, increased focus on climate-friendly transport and restrictions on car traffic are necessary.

Increased production of renewable energy will result in a more robust energy supply within the framework of climate and environmental policy considerations. Utilisation of local renewable resources can also contribute to the development of business and industry and increased value creation. The Government has an active policy to increase the production of renewable energy, including wind power, hydroelectric power and bioenergy.

At the same time, it is an important goal for the Government that the development of renewable energy takes place without loss of natural diversity or major landscape values, and that the level of conflict with other user groups is as low as possible. The large scope of individual projects can increase the cumulative environmental effect on natural diversity, landscape values, cultural heritage sites/monuments and cultural environments, outdoor pursuits, business activities and other public interests. New projects must therefore be seen in conjunction with a wider area.

Climate change will reinforce Norway’s present climate problems and give rise to new ones. A rising sea level, landslides, avalanche and flood hazards, and extensive and intense precipitation episodes will present planning challenges, especially in built-up areas. Many urban and peri-urban municipalities are faced with the problem of handling increasing volumes of rainwater and surface water. A correct handling of these problems can nevertheless contribute to furthering the development of the green structure and quality of outdoor spaces, including increased use of water surfaces, ponds and other water environments.

Climate change can increase the pressure on the natural diversity of various ecosystems, vulnerable cultural heritage sites/monuments and cultural environments, and also affect the productivity of agricultural and forest land.

Net carbon absorption by Norwegian forests is approximately equal to half of Norway’s total greenhouse gas emissions, and forests are therefore important in the climate context.

Climate adaptation is about acknowledging that the climate is changing and understanding how the change will affect society, and about making choices whereby the negative impacts can be reduced and the opportunities exploited. The problems associated with climate change are very different in different regions, and regional and municipal planning is an important policy instrument to adapt society to future climate change. 

Climate in figures

Norway aims to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 30 per cent of the 1990 level by 2020. About two thirds of the total reduction in emissions shall take place in Norway.

In 2010, greenhouse gas emissions were eight per cent above the 1990 level. Petroleum-related activities were the biggest single source with 27 per cent, while industry and road traffic accounted for 22 per cent and 19 per cent, respectively, of total emissions.

Petroleum-related activities and road traffic have seen the greatest increase in emissions since 1990, while the industrial sector has reduced its emissions during the same period. Emissions from heating buildings account for less than four per cent of the total Norwegian greenhouse gas emissions and were reduced by 25 per cent from 1990 to 2009, mainly as a result of less use of fuel oil and kerosene.

Projections in the National Budget for 2011 show that, based on continued use of the current policy instruments, total greenhouse gases emissions will increase by an estimated 15 per cent from 1990 to 2020.

Economic growth is one of the most important drivers of increased energy consumption. Energy consumption in Norway dropped in 2009 because of a decline in economic activity as a result of the financial crisis. In 2010, it increased again as a result of an economic upturn and a cold winter.

However, (end-user) energy consumption did not increase from 1999 to 2009, despite a high economic growth rate for the period as a whole.