In June 2016 the Norwegian government approved the goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2030, 20 years earlier than originally planned, through “the EU emissions trading market, international cooperation on emissions reductions, emissions trading and project-based cooperation” (“Komiteens tilråding,” 2016). Even though this goal is to be achieved through a mix of efforts domestically and abroad, Climate and Environment Minister Vidar Helgesen recognised that Norway “must be prepared to take the majority of cuts at home“ (Ministry of Climate and Environment, 2016). Currently implemented policies are projected to increase emissions by 2% in 2030 in comparison to the 1990 levels.
Norway signed and ratified the Paris Agreement on 20 June 2016. Norway’s NDC includes a target of reducing GHG emissions by “at least 40%” below 1990 levels in 2030, thus aligning itself with the European Union’s target. The inclusion of emissions and removals from the land use, land use change and forestry (LULUCF) sector was made dependent on the EU’s approach to this issue.
We rate the unconditional NDC of Norway “Insufficient,” and hence not consistent with limiting warming below 2°C, let alone with the Paris Agreement’s stronger 1.5°C limit, unless other countries make much deeper reductions and comparably greater effort. The climate neutrality goal by 2030 would be rated “2° Paris compatible.” While Norway claims its NDC is “fair,” we consider it has been mistaken in the calculations it has used to arrive at this statement.
In June 2014 Norway ratified the Doha Amendment establishing the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period with a Quantified Emission Limitation and Reduction Commitment (QELRC) of 84, which is consistent with Norway’s Copenhagen pledge of a 30% to 40% reduction by 2020.
Paris Agreement target
Norway signed and ratified the Paris Agreement on 20 June 2016. Since Norway made no new submissions, its INDC (submitted in March 2015) automatically became its NDC. The NDC states the goal of reducing emissions by at least 40% below 1990 by 2030 (UNFCCC, 2015). Norway’s current intention is to fulfil its commitment collectively with the EU. The European Commission has proposed a preliminary target for Norway for emissions reductions in sectors outside the EU Emissions Trading System of 40% by 2030 in comparison to 2005 levels. Final targets remain subject to further calculations by the Commission (Ministry of Climate and Environment, 2016). The target is based on Norway’s high GDP relative to other European countries (both Luxembourg and Sweden have also been given reduction targets of 40%).
Although the base year for Norway’s NDC is set with respect to GHG emissions excluding LULUCF in 1990, Norway intends to use the land-use, land-use change and forestry sector to achieve its emissions reduction. The NDC submission states that the 40% reduction commitment includes additional measures in the land sector, but the ‘final choice of land sector accounting shall not affect the ambition level for 2030.’ The exact meaning of this statement, however, is unclear, and open to quite different interpretations.
In this assessment, based on the information in the NDC, we interpret the meaning of the LULUCF approach as the following: the 40% reduction commitment is compared to 1990 GHG emissions excluding LULUCF, and this metric is to be achieved irrespective of the additional measures taken in the land sector. This approach is justified by Norway’s statement that the final choice of land sector accounting will not affect the ambition level compared with the case where this sector is not included.
According to Norway’s NDC, the LULUCF sink will grow from 10.1 MtCO2e in 1990 to 21.2 MtCO2e in 2030. The NDC submission text (footnote 2 of the text) suggests that only reductions in addition to those in the base year and those already projected can be counted as credits toward meeting the 2030 target. However, the supporting text is not completely clear as to how the LULUCF sector will be incorporated into the final target, and the conditions described in the NDC submission make it difficult to evaluate the assumed contribution of this sector. The submission states that if the projected increase in the sink between 1990 and 2030 (11.1 MtCO2e) were credited, the 2030 target would be recalculated so that the ambition level does not change. We estimate that this would mean that a target of about a 60% emissions reduction (including. LULUCF) below 1990 levels would be needed to produce the same outcome of 40% emissions reduction without LULUCF.
In addition, Norway’s NDC includes a conditional element with regard to its target of carbon neutrality; “as part of an ambitious global climate agreement where other developed nations also undertake ambitious commitments, Norway will adopt a binding goal of carbon neutrality no later than in 2030.” The NDC specifies “that Norway will commit to achieving emission reductions abroad equivalent to Norwegian emissions in 2030.” In June 2016 the Norwegian government approved the goal of achieving climate neutrality by 2030 through “the EU emissions trading market, international cooperation on emissions reductions, emissions trading and project-based cooperation” (“Komiteens tilråding,” 2016). Given that Norway includes its LULUCF sink in this target definition, we assess this target as being equivalent to emissions of ~21.2 MtCO2e in 2030 excluding LULUCF.
2020 pledge and Kyoto target
Kyoto Protocol second commitment period (2013–2020)
Norway's target under the Kyoto Protocol’s second commitment period (2013–2020) is to reduce average GHG emissions (excluding LULUCF) by 16% (QELRO of 84) from 1990 levels, equivalent to about a 41% reduction in the year 2020, taking into account the emissions from 2013 and 2014 and assuming a linear pathway reduction from current levels . Under the Kyoto Protocol’s Land Use Change and Forestry accounting provisions, CAT estimates that Norway is likely to get an annual credit equivalent to about 1.7–3.4% of 1990 GHG emissions excluding LULUCF over the period 2013–2020. This would result in a 26–39% reduction of GHG emissions excluding LULUCF in the year 2020. The actual level of domestic emissions reductions would also depend upon emissions trading and the level of Joint Implementation (JI) and CDM (CER) units acquired or held.
With currently implemented policies and measures, Norway’s emissions are expected to increase by around 10% above 1990 levels in 2020 in GHG emissions excluding LULUCF, reaching emissions of roughly 52 MtCO2e by 2020. According to these projections, Norway will not be able to meet its Kyoto target (see figure) without acquiring emission units internationally or introducing new policies. National policy is to reduce two thirds of its GHG emissions domestically and to purchase emissions units for the rest, to the tune of up to 30 million credits during the Kyoto Protocol second commitment period.
Prior to adoption of the Kyoto Protocol second commitment period target, in 2010 Norway pledged to reduce emissions by 30–40% below 1990 levels by 2020 with the 40% reduction target conditional on global action.
Norway’s long-term goal is to become a low emissions society by 2050, a goal that Norway has agreed to try to fulfil by 2030. Norway also aims to achieve this through the EU emissions trading market, international cooperation on emissions reductions, emissions trading and project-based cooperation.
 The QELRO, expressed as a percentage of Kyoto Protocol Annex I GHG emissions and sources in relation to the base year, denotes the average level of emissions that an Annex B Party could emit annually during a given commitment period.
 Starting with reported Kyoto Annex A emissions in 2012 and assuming a linear decline in these emissions until 2020 so that cumulative emissions in 2013–2020 are equal to the total Kyoto assigned amount based on the QELRO.
 Assuming that the LULUCF credits are effectively added to the QELRO and starting with reported Kyoto Annex A emissions in 2012, with a linear decline in these emissions until 2020 so that cumulative emissions in 2013-2020 are equal to the total Kyoto assigned amount based on the QELRO plus the LULUCF credits.
 The base year emissions specified in the NDC are all greenhouse gases not controlled by the Montreal Protocol and in effect Kyoto Annex A sources - Energy; industrial processes and product use; waste.
 In the NDC it is stated that “If it can contribute to a global and ambitious climate agreement in Paris, Norway will consider taking a commitment beyond an emission reduction of 40% compared to 1990 levels, through the use of flexible mechanisms under the UN framework convention beyond a collective delivery with the EU.”
We rate Norway’s unconditional NDC “Insufficient.” The “Insufficient” rating indicates that Norway’s climate commitment in 2017 is not consistent with holding warming to below 2°C, let alone limiting it to 1.5°C as required under the Paris Agreement, and is instead consistent with warming between 2°C and 3°C. If all countries were to follow Norway’s approach, warming would reach over 2°C and up to 3°C. This means Norway’s unconditional climate commitment is at the least stringent end of what would be a fair share of global effort, and is not consistent with the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C limit, unless other countries make much deeper reductions and comparably greater effort.
Norway’s conditional target of climate neutrality by 2030 falls between two categories: “Insufficient” and “2°C Compatible,” because we only rate the reductions required for the sectors excluding LULUCF. The Paris Agreement requires global GHG emissions to peak as soon as possible “and to undertake rapid reductions thereafter in accordance with best available science, so as to achieve a balance between anthropogenic emissions by sources and removals by sinks of [GHGs] in the second half of this century” (Paris Agreement, Article 4). Norway has set this target for itself for 2030, while the Paris Agreement requires it globally only for the second half of the century. We therefore rate its climate neutrality target “2°C compatible”.
The CAT ratings are based on climate commitments in (I)NDCs. If the CAT were to rate Norway’s projected emissions levels in 2017 under current policies, we would rate Norway “Highly insufficient,” indicating that Norway’s current policies in 2017 are not consistent with holding warming to below 2°C, let alone limiting it to 1.5°C as required under the Paris Agreement, and are instead consistent with warming between 3°C and 4°C: if all countries were to follow Norway’s approach, warming could reach over 3°C and up to 4°C. This means Norway’s current policies are not in line with any interpretation of a “fair” approach to the former 2°C goal, let alone the Paris Agreement’s 1.5°C limit.
In its NDC, Norway argues that “it is doing its fair share for the global goal of keeping global warming below 2°C compared to pre-industrial levels” and sources this to the IPCC AR5 results: “(A)n emissions reduction target of 40% by 2030 compared to 1990 is at the high end of emission reductions that should be implemented by OECD-countries, given a global cost-effective, regional distribution of emission reduction targets (IPCC WGIII, table 6.4).” This appears to reflect a misunderstanding of the global cost-effective emissions pathways, which do not include equity and fairness assumptions, but simply reflect where emissions reductions are most cost-effective. Cost-effectiveness itself is not a measure of equity and fairness of effort and hence of allocation of emission effort, but rather an economic principle to be applied after an emission effort allocation has been made.
For further information about the risks and impacts associated with the temperature levels of each of the categories click here.
Since 1990, GHG emissions in Norway have slightly increased, reaching 52 MtCO2-eq in 2014 (excluding LULUCF). This level was above the Kyoto Target in 2012, and Norway purchased 21.5 million carbon credits to offset its surplus (IETA 2013). Under current policy projections, Norway will not be able to reach either its 2020 or its 2030 targets, as GHG emissions are projected to stabilise at current emissions levels of around 52 MtCO2e up to 2030. This illustrates the need for further policy reforms. Even though Norway’s 2030 target is to be achieved through a mix of efforts domestically and abroad, Climate and Environment Minister Vidar Helgesen recognised "that the 2030 goal of reducing emissions by 40% can be reached with the main emphasis on domestic emissions reductions" (Ministry of Climate and Environment., 2017). Yet, a big share of the country’s reduction requirements could still rely on international climate action and purchase of emissions quotas under the European regulatory framework. Such investments and purchases abroad are grounded on the cost-efficiency argument, considering that reductions in other countries are overall cheaper than more aggressive national policies.
The country’s electricity sector is almost carbon neutral, as hydropower facilities cover roughly 95% of domestic generation.
Norway is home to the biggest hydrocarbon reserves in Europe, making it the 5th largest exporter of crude oil in the world. The oil and gas sector constitutes around 22% of Norwegian GDP (Statistik sentralbyrå., 2017).
Historically, Norway’s most important instrument to tackle GHG emissions has been the carbon tax on petroleum activities levied on offshore drilling activities since 1991. In 1999, under the White Paper on energy policy, the government adopted additional energy and CO2 taxes. The taxation level is not the same for all sectors, with higher rates for oil-related activities. Since the introduction of the EU-ETS (EU Emissions Trading Scheme), the rate levels have been subject to revisions to embed changes in the price of carbon.
Due to the low price of carbon traded in the framework of the EU-ETS, the Norwegian government increased the offshore carbon tax, which was set at around €50 per tonne CO2 in 2015, being charged in addition to the EU-ETS. This led the Norwegian oil and gas extraction sector to decrease its emissions intensity to about 55 kg CO2 per tonne oil equivalent (toe) extracted in 2012, against a world average of 130 kg CO2 (Gavenas, Rosendahl, & Skjerpen, 2015).
It is expected that the petroleum industry will remain an important sector for the Norwegian economy for decades to come even with a lower oil price (Royal Ministry of Finance, 2015). However, higher emissions intensity due to the shrinking of existing fields and new exploration in marginal and less accessible ones, as well as increased explorations in sensitive regions such as the Barents Sea, could lead Norway to miss its 2030 carbon neutrality target (Gavenas et al., 2015; Ministry of Petroleum and Energy., 2016).
The government has flagged that its main effort for decarbonisation of its non-quota sectors, mainly composed of agriculture, transport, waste and construction, will be aimed at its transport sector. Building on this, Norway included the low-emissions transformation of its transport system as one of the three main goals of its National Transport Plan 2018–2029 (Ministry of Transport., 2016).
In February 2017, electric cars held a market share for new car sales of 15.8%, or 33% when including rechargeable hybrids. With its new legislation, Norway expects that all new passenger cars and light vans will be zero-emission vehicles by 2025, and new city buses will be zero-emission or run on biogas by the same year. Electric car incentives are expected to continue at least until 2020, including differentiated taxes and tolls, VAT exemption for new zero-emission units, creation of low-emission zones in cities and access to bus lanes. Electrification is also planned for railways, substituting old diesel-fuelled lines to achieve emission reductions, but also higher train speeds and cost competitiveness against road transport, given the country’s low electricity costs. Other policies involve the development of urban and public transport, and a goal of at least 1% sustainable biofuel in aviation from 2019, increasing to 30% by 2030 (Ministry of Climate and Environment., 2016).
Norwegian building regulations have tightened over the last two decades. The building code limits on energy consumption for individual homes decreased from 173 kWh/m2 in 1997 to 125 kWh/m2 in the regulations adopted ten years later. For new and refurbished apartments, the maximum energy consumption decreased from 149 kWh/m2 in 1997 to 120 kWh/m2 in 2007. In November 2015, new Building Codes called TEK17 were adopted. They introduced stricter limits for different categories of new and refurbished builds that became binding for all homeowners in 2017: 100 kWh/m2 for single houses, 95 kWh/m2 for apartments and 115 kWh/m2 for offices. (Buildup, 2015; Direkoratet for Byggkvalitet, 2017; Faschevsky, 2016).
Home owners are also encouraged to increase the share of renewables produced domestically. Should an equivalent of more than 20 kWh/m2 be produced on the property, the respective limit on energy consumption can be exceeded by 10 kWh/m2 (Buildup, 2015).
Norway has also introduced a ban on fossil fuel (oil and paraffin) heating systems. This has been phased in since 2016 and will be in full force from 2020 onwards. The ban will apply to both old and new buildings and both private homes and public spaces of businesses and state-owned facilities (Reuters, 2017).
Norway has a substantial carbon sink in its forests: with 30% of its land surface covered by forest, the sink equals approximately half of Norway’s annual emissions. But the net uptake of CO2 in 2020 is projected to decrease from 24 Mt/yr to around 20 Mt/yr towards 2030 (Ministry of Climate and Environment., 2014).
The Copenhagen pledge, as well as NDC and long-term target were calculated from the most recent national inventory submissions (CRF, 2016).
While Norway intends to become a carbon neutral nation, only part of the cuts in total emissions would be made domestically and would include their LULUCF sector, which is currently a large sink. LULUCF removals are projected to slightly decline in 2030, reaching 21 MtCO2. In our analysis we assume that LULUCF emissions stay at this level until 2050. As a result, a carbon neutrality target (both the conditional NDC target in 2030 and long-term 2050 target) entails a pledge of 21 MtCO2.
The current policy projections are based on Norway's second Biennial Report (Ministry of Climate and Environment, 2015). Historical data is based on CRF 2016.
Buildup. (2015). Implementation of the EPBD in Norway. Status in November 2015.
Direkoratet for Byggkvalitet. (2017). Sammenstilling av forskriftene TEK10 og TEK17.
Faschevsky, S. (2016). Policy Framework - Energy Efficiency in Buildings in Norway.
Gavenas, E., Rosendahl, K. E., & Skjerpen, T. (2015). CO 2 -emissions from Norwegian oil and gas extraction. Retrieved from https://www.ssb.no/en/forskning/discussion-papers/_attachment/225118?_ts=14de17b6918
Komiteens tilråding. (2016).
Ministry of Climate and Environment. (2015). Norway’s second Biennial Report, (December).
Ministry of Climate and Environment. (2016). The EU proposes climate targets for Norway.
Ministry of Climate and Environment. (2014). Norway’s Sixth National Communication.
Ministry of Climate and Environment. (2016, October 6). Increased efforts lower emissions. Retrieved August 17, 2017, from https://www.regjeringen.no/no/aktuelt/okt-innsats-for-lavere-utslipp/id2514869/
Ministry of Climate and Environment. (2017). How should Norway reach climate goals for 2030. regjeringen.no. Retrieved from https://www.regjeringen.no/no/aktuelt/slik-skal-norge-na-klimamalene-for-2030/id2557549/
Ministry of Petroleum and Energy. (2016, May 18). Announcement 23rd licensing round awards. Retrieved August 17, 2017, from https://www.regjeringen.no/en/aktuelt/announcement-23rd-licensing-round-awards/id2500936/
Ministry of Transport. (2016, February 15). National Transport Plan - NTP. Retrieved August 17, 2017, from https://www.regjeringen.no/no/tema/transport-og-kommunikasjon/nasjonal-transportplan/id2475111/
Reuters. (2017). Oil producer Norway bans use of heating oil in buildings. Retrieved September 4, 2017, from https://www.reuters.com/article/us-climatechange-norway/oil-producer-norway-bans-use-of-heating-oil-in-buildings-idUSKBN1961VL
Royal Ministry of Finance. (2015). The National Budget 2015, A Summary.
Statistik sentralbyrå. (2017). Emissions of greenhouse gases - annually, preliminary figures - SSB. Retrieved August 17, 2017, from https://ssb.no/natur-og-miljo/statistikker/klimagassn