The Norwegian government is taking some big steps on climate, but it still has a way to go.
In June, its Parliament voted to extend divestment policies that will see its huge Government Pension Fund not only phase out investments in companies dealing with oil and gas exploration and production, but also divest from eight coal companies. The policies include a ban on the Fund investing in any company generating more than 10GW of electricity from coal - or mining more than 20 million tonnes of coal annually. Some of the resources will instead be invested in unlisted renewable energy projects.
Norway also continues to lead the world with its record share of electric cars: in the first half of 2019 the share of electrically-charged vehicles sold in the country increased to 56%. However, the overall figure is still at around 8% of all cars.
Norway’s long term, 2050 goal of becoming a “low carbon society” has been engrained in legislation in 2017, described as a 80-95% reduction below 1990 levels. In a January 2019 declaration, the government signalled its plans to increase this goal to a 90-95% emissions reduction, but failed to clarify how much of this it would achieve domestically.
However, Norway’s ongoing tendency to “buy its way” out of the climate crisis can be clearly observed in its target of “emissions neutrality” by 2030. With emissions projected to decrease by only 12% under current policies, without further, concrete policy measures, Norway would have meet the rest of its target through forest sinks or climate action abroad.
As the Climate Action Tracker rates the impact of domestic action, we rate Norway’s currently implemented policies as “Highly insufficient.” Norway’s currently implemented policies are not consistent with the Paris Agreement, and are instead consistent with warming between 3°C and 4°C if all others followed a similar level of ambition.
We rate Norway’s unconditional NDC “Insufficient,” and 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. If unconditional, we would rate the climate neutrality goal by 2030 “2°C compatible.”
Norway’s electricity generation is almost exclusively renewable: in 2017 almost 96% of electricity was generated by hydro power plants and around 2% from wind farms. Only 2.3% of generation was from thermal power plants, mostly in industrial heat processes.
Norway is home to the biggest hydrocarbon reserves in Europe, making it the world’s fifth largest exporter of crude oil, and its offshore drilling activities have been subject to a carbon tax since 1991. In 1999, these were increased, and in 2005 Norway joined the EU ETS. By 2018 around 80% of greenhouse gas emissions were taxed, with the highest tax charged on domestic aviation and mineral oil.
While the decarbonisation of Norway’s transport system is one of the three main goals of its National Transport Plan 2018–2029, the majority of the NOK 67.5 billion (USD 8.1 billion) allocated to the transport budget in 2018 still flowed into construction and improvement of roads and highways. However, there was a notable acceleration of investment into railways (5.7%) and a near-doubling of investment into public transport projects.
In 2018 battery electric vehicles reached a 31% market share. Plug-in hybrids have a market share of almost 18%. The increasing share of electric cars in new sales has had an impact on the overall share of zero emissions vehicles: by the end of March over 7.9% of all passenger cars in Norway were zero emissions vehicles, an increase from 7.2% at the end of 2018. In the first half of 2019 the share of newly sold electric vehicles reached 56%, more than 80% of which were battery electric vehicles.
Norway has a substantial carbon sink in its forests - equal to around half of Norway’s annual emissions. Forest cover has been increasing. The volume of growing wood stock increased between 2008-2017 by over 23%. According to the national forestry accounting plan, between 2021-2025 Norway’s average removal from this sector will amount to slightly over 24 MtCO2eq.
Norway has pledged up to NOK 3 billion ($343 million) a year in the framework of the Norway International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI) to reduce deforestation in other countries.