The country’s gesture is more than welcome, although there is a lot of skepticism regarding its success
The Norwegian parliament has agreed on a goal to cut the country's net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2030- moving the target forward by 20 years- in response to the Paris climate accord forged late last year. In 2008, the country had set again the same target but pushed it back to 2050 after the United Nations’s Copenhagen climate summit in 2009 failed to deliver an international climate deal.
An ambitious goal
Most critics believe that this goal is almost impossible to be achieved and even the government plans to return to parliament on the question of how the proposal could come through. And here are the reasons why. The country already generates more than 95% of electricity from hydropower plants, meaning there is limited scope for further emission cuts in the power sector (which is usually the first target for climate policy). Moreover, although the Norwegian oil and gas sector has the biggest climate impact, the country’s wealth is based on fossil fuels and in 2014, petroleum accounted for 45% of Norway’s export revenues and more than 20% of GDP. As such, the doubts regarding how this sector will lower its carbon output are quite justified.
It is also worth mentioning that the country’s total emissions have barely changed since 1990, as increases from the oil and gas sector cancelled out efficiency improvements over the past 25 years. Even the most ambitious package suggested by the Norwegian Environment Agency would only reduce emissions by 31% (compared to 1990 levels) by 2030.
Proposals for meeting the goal
Norway could reduce its emissions by introducing more electric vehicles or supplying electricity from the national grid to offshore oil and gas platforms to reduce their use of gas turbines, officials say. Another proposal under discussion is restricting the sale of petrol and diesel-powered cars by 2025. Other options include capturing and storing emissions from cement production, ramping up biofuels and using bio char in steelworks. The purchase of carbon credits abroad to offset the country’s emissions is also under consideration. However, it's not clear what kind of credits will be available after 2020, according to Stig Schjoelset, head of carbon analysis team at Thomson Reuters. ‘This is not something every country can do, because then there would not be enough emissions to buy,’ agrees Anne Therese Gullberg, an adviser to Norway’s Labour Party.