Norway currently has climate targets for the period up to 2030. One is the obligation under the Paris Agreement that Norway’s emissions must be reduced by 50–55 percent, compared with 1990. This must be achieved in cooperation with the EU, which means that it does not matter. role of emission cuts in Norway or in the EU. In practice, the Norwegian target will by definition be met if the EU reaches its climate target for 2030.
The second is the goal from The Hurdal platform, where the government has said that Norwegian emissions must be cut by 55 percent by 2030, compared to 1990. This goal must be achieved through emissions cuts in Norway. It is initially a more management-efficient goal, because it sets a clear framework for Norwegian emissions.
But there is an important fundamental difference between the two goals. The goal of cutting emissions by 50-55 percent in cooperation with the EU was announced under the Paris Agreement by the Solberg government, and it is also enshrined in the Climate Act. The goal from the Hurdal platform is the governing parties’ political ambition, as it was formulated before they entered the government. It is not legislated and not mentioned in Norway’s obligation under the Paris Agreement. It has also not been considered by the Storting.
The Hurdal case is also mentioned quite differently by the Center Party and the Labor Party. Parliamentary leader Marit Arnstad will be opened during the Center Party’s national board meeting in March so that the goal may last a few years, or that it could be partially fulfilled by buying quotas or telling admission in the forest in another way. Sigbjørn Gjelsvik, fiscal policy spokesman for the Center Party, who has been Minister of Local Government, has on several occasions mentioned the same thing.
The Labor Party, for its part, has insisted that the climate goal from Hurdal be met with national cuts. Minister of Climate and Environment Espen Barth Eide has emphasized that the target means that Norway’s emissions can not be higher than 23 million tonnes by 2030.
Different status and mention of the two goals will of course have an impact on how we align climate policy towards 2030.
Climate goals are more than change goals
I revised national budget for 2022 (RNB) the climate goal from Hurdal is referred to as a “national adjustment goal”. The mention of the target shows the government’s ambition for a green transformation of the entire economy, including the sectors covered by the EU quota system.
Conversion is good and important. But is a national adjustment goal a good concept for the job that must be done to cut Norway’s emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030?
A good climate policy for Norway until 2030 should be handled on three main tasks.
Firstly it must contribute to building new value chains linked to, for example, offshore wind and the production of batteries, biofuels, biogas and hydrogen. This is about the position of the Norwegian economy must review our climate risk and utilization for growth and value creation in the green shift.
The other main tasks is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in Norway. This is the “narrow climate policy”, where the work is to put in place effective measures to cut emissions from existing emission sources. It will often deal with making emissions more expensive, and about being known climate technology such as electric vehicles and fossil-free industrial processes.
The third task is to contribute to global emissions cuts. Under the Paris Agreement, Norway and other rich countries are obliged to contribute with climate financing to support emission reductions in developing countries and emerging economies. In 2021, the Solberg government set up a new climate investment fund, managed by Norfund, which will be invested in renewable energy on land, where it will contribute to a faster expansion of coal. Through this fund, together with various guarantee schemes for renewable energy, Norway will contribute to global emissions. In addition, climate and energy cooperation with neighboring European countries will be part of Norway’s contribution to emissions cuts outside its own borders.
Although there will be some overlap between these main objectives, it is primarily three different tasks. Norway has very good conditions for building more green value chains, but the production of offshore wind, batteries or biofuels will be significant for direct emissions cuts in Norway before 2030. The national cuts must be driven through taxes, regulations and support schemes, which are either faster out of fossil solutions or make them more expensive than alternative emission-free.
When the climate goal from Hurdal is now called a national one conversion goalsit leads the mind more in the direction of the policy that will facilitate green value creation, than the systematic and steadfast job required to cut Norwegian emissions by 55 percent by 2030.
How strong is the obligation?
In the revised national budget (RNB), the government states that the national restructuring target shall not be reported under the Paris Agreement or enshrined in law in the Climate Act. It has triggered so much criticism that Espen Barth Eide has since opened to what is written in RNB, does not apply.
But the headline in Aftenposten, that “the climate minister is turning”, is actually quite misleading. For Espen Barth Eide has always said that the government is considering legislating or reporting the climate goal from Hurdal under the Paris Agreement. But he has not managed to convince the rest of the government of this, something that is clearly reflected in RNB. This means that Norway’s national climate targets (for the time being) have a weaker framework than similar targets in Denmark and Sweden, with which it may be natural to compare oneself.
Both Denmark and Sweden are part of the EU’s joint commitment under the Paris Agreement, where the goal is for the EU’s (and Norway’s) total emissions to be reduced by at least 55 percent by 2030, compared to 1990.
Denmark also has a national goal of cutting its emissions by 70 percent by 2030, compared with 1990. This is laid down in the Danish Climate Act. It is also created one independent climate council which must provide annual assessments of whether the climate policy pursued is in line with this goal.
Sweden’s national emissions target for 2030 is to reduce emissions in sectors that are not covered by the EU quota system by at least 63 per cent compared with 1990. Flexible mechanisms can make up 8 per cent of the target solution. This goal has been adopted by the Riksdag. Sweden has also set up an independent climate council (Climate Policy Council), which will assess progression towards the climate goals and make recommendations on reinforced policy, if necessary.
Of course, the fact that Denmark and Sweden have a stronger obligation around their goals does not mean that the goals will necessarily be met. Neither a climate law nor a decision in the Riksdag can guarantee that the countries will be able to cut emissions in line with the targets. But the stronger the commitment is framed, the greater the chances that the policy will actually be aligned with the goals. And here there is a significant difference between Norway and neighbors.
Climate budgets need a framework
In official documents from the government, the text has been sharpened through negotiations between the ministries concerned. Each section is thoroughly discussed, and everything that stands out has a meaning. It is true that the devil often lies in the details. In climate policy, it is often the case that the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of Climate and Environment (KLD) stand against each other, and the former is most powerful. In matters of increased CO2-charges usually stand KLD and Finans together against the affected sector ministries. The tug-of-war between ministries can end in a compromise that partly camouflages the contradictions. This also applies to parts of the text that mention the climate goal from Hurdal in RNB (pages 84-86).
In the section which explains what lies in a national adjustment target, the government says that the target is for both the quota-obligatory and non-quota-liable sector, and that the intention is for the entire Norwegian business community to adapt to the direction-emitting society. But the goal that emissions should be invested with 55 percent is only included as a reference to the Hurdal platform:
“This is formulated in the government platform as a goal to cut Norwegian emissions by 55 per cent. compared to 1990 ”.
It is a clever formulation that makes it ambiguous whether the goal is in fact the government’s policies. Because even though the government reserves ambitions to implement everything that is in the platform, none of Hurdal’s ambitions are considered “adopted policy” until they are repeated in a report to the Storting, strategy or budget document. It is not a given when hard priorities are to be made that the Ministry of Finance will accept formulations in RNB must have strong guidelines for climate policy. However, the text refers all just to how the goal is formulated in the Hurdal platform, while the mention in RNB points to a much rounder interpretation of the change goal.
In RNB we can also read that the national conversion target should not “lead to a slightly effective climate policy or disproportionate animal measures“.
That we should not have a little effective climate policy or professional measures is common sense. But what does this phrase really mean? This is also a common argument against climate measures in the quota sector (ineffective policies) and, for example, electric car subsidies (expensive measures).
If the government was really committed to the Hurdal goal, they would hardly weaken the incentives to buy an electric car, as they announced in RNB, without the taxes on fossil cars being adjusted accordingly. Without a binding national goal, they can.
In the same way, there will certainly be other needs for cost cuts that at the same time weaken climate policy. Who then has the last word on what is “too expensive” or “inefficient”?
An important and potentially powerful point in the Hurdal platform is that the government will introduce “an annual binding budget for greenhouse gas emissions”. A climate budget that commits the entire government can give KLD greater impact and commit the government across sectors. The climate issue will be given greater weight in budget negotiations. Men budgets need to get within as known and fast. It is difficult to see that the national conversion target provides such a framework.
Back to work
In Norway, we have spent too much time discussing the goals of climate policy, and too little time discussing the actual solutions. But one reason we still come back to the discussion of the goals is that they have often been vaguely worded and somewhat binding on changing governments.
If it is to be possible to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, an emission shot of at least 55 percent by 2030 requires land in Norway. Legislation of the Hurdal goal would therefore be a step in the right direction. It would provide clearer management signals and a good basis for binding climate budgets and perseverance in climate policy. Then it is a pity that the government through the RNB has not helped to clarify how serious it actually has its own climate goal. But nothing would please me more than that the government in future climate reports and state budget shows that everything I have written above is unfounded suspicion.
For now, we must return to the job of designing an effective climate policy that can really accelerate green transition and ensure rapid emissions cuts. Through the report NUL 2030 ZERO has proposed a number of concrete measures to reduce Norwegian emissions by 55 percent by 2030, and we look forward to the government’s forthcoming climate plan for emission cuts throughout the economy. Because it is the policy we get in place during this parliamentary term that will largely determine how large emission cuts it will be possible to achieve by 2030.