Do politicians dare to resist calls for new roads, more cabins, or new energy production?
This is a chronicle. Opinions in the text are the responsibility of the writer.
In the political debate, it can be easily led to believe that Norway lacks ambitious climate targets and a binding climate policy. Little could have been further from the truth.
But on the road to a zero-emission society something is missing: a policy to solve the natural crisis.
Marius Holm, the recently resigned leader of the climate organization Zero, wrote in Aftenposten on June 30 that Norway has perhaps the most ambitious climate policy in the world. He referred to the CO2 tax and investment in electric cars, CO2 capture and other climate technologies, but did not mention Norway’s binding climate cooperation with the EU in a single word.
The fact is that we have tied ourselves to the mast of the EU.
Ambitious climate goals
European cooperation commits any new government. In practice, Norway is a full member of the union’s climate policy cooperation from 2021 to 2030.
Emissions from industry and oil have been part of the European quota system since 2008. Emissions from transport, agriculture, waste and construction that are not subject to quotas are now covered by a separate agreement with the EU. It commits us to reducing emissions every year until 2030.
Cooperation with the EU gave the Solberg government the opportunity to report on a strengthened climate target to the Paris Agreement: the target is to cut emissions by 50-55 percent by 2030 compared to 1990.
Imagine if Norway had an equally ambitious policy to solve the natural crisis!
In the absence of support from Brussels, Norwegian politicians must devise a policy to solve the natural crisis on their own. How can climate policy serve as a model for an ambitious nature policy?
Three general measures for the natural crisis
Here are three general measures that the new government and the new Storting can implement:
- Introduce an area neutrality measure according to the carbon neutrality target model.
- Introduce a tax on nature based on the CO2 tax model.
- Make an ambitious plan to ensure that green change is a change to solve both the climate crisis and the natural crisis.
The first move implies that the objective of arealnøytralitet It will govern all development and use of the land.
The neutrality of the area means that we must consolidate and build in areas that have already been developed, and not build in the untouched nature. If there are no alternatives to new nature interventions, the intervention must be compensated by restoring an equally large area to nature.
Wind turbines and other power plants are built without putting a price on natural areas.
The second grip is to introduce a nature fee.
Today, it is largely free to develop nature in Norway. The consequence is that natural values do not have enough weight in the balance between development and nature conservation. It’s easy to find examples from recent years:
- The Storting has commissioned the state limited company Nye Veier to construct new roads economically and efficiently. In the absence of a nature fee, the lowest possible cost means that the company would rather make large cuts and embankments to drive the highway through natural areas than bear the cost of tunneling and building with the least invasion of nature possible.
- More and more cabins are being built, each time bigger and more luxurious. According to Statistics from Norway More than 440,000 cabins have already been built in this country, and the average size has increased from about 60 to 90 square meters from 1983 to 2021. The planning of the new cabin fields corresponds to the municipalities, which lack incentives to take into account consider the cost nature of the developments.
- Wind turbines and other power plants are built without putting a price on natural areas. The result is that the value of intact nature is not quantified in the calculation of either the developers or the licensing authority.
A nature fee has been proposed in several public studies, most recently in the study Norway by 2025 from the Pandemic Committee earlier this year. WWF has the parties at the Storting asked how they respond to such a rate. SV, MDG, Venstre, KrF and Ap are positive about this tax, while Høyre, Frp and Rødt are more skeptical. The Center Party says no, but a government collaboration with the Labor Party may be key to obtaining a majority for a nature tax.
Most of the biodiversity and endangered species are found in forests and low-lying areas near urbanized areas.
The third grip Solving the natural crisis is designing a plan to ensure that ecological change does not simply become a climate plan.
Large-scale plans for electrification, battery factories, the production of “green hydrogen” from electrolysis and the restructuring of the industry will require even more renewable energy and large invasions of nature. The development of onshore wind energy has so far required an area of approximately 500 square kilometers, which corresponds to more than two and a half times the total industrial area of Norway. Electrification of transport and industry will require large investments in the electricity grid.
Lose nature and biodiversity
We are often told that we must endure sacrificing some nature on the way to renewable society. An Economist writer, Guy Kiddey, wrote in Aftenposten on September 30 that Norway “will have to sacrifice some valleys and hills” in the fight against climate change and offer the British cheaper electricity. Others say: Everyone who has taken a flight between Oslo and Bergen, see how much unspoiled nature we have to take off!
The truth, however, is that 11.5 percent of the area of Norway is desert, that is, more than five kilometers from heavier technical interventions. It is also not enough to protect mountainous areas away from people. We know that most of the biodiversity and endangered species are found in forests and low-lying areas near urbanized areas.
The most important reasons for the loss of nature and biological diversity are energy development, road construction, forestry, and the construction of houses, cabins and associated infrastructure. There are no technological solutions to these challenges. This is precisely why the natural crisis is so demanding to solve.
A green “green change”
Politicians must dare to choose a social development on the premises of nature. When the cost of nature is too high, you must have the courage to resist the desire for a new industry, new jobs, new roads, more cabins, or new energy production.
Otherwise, we will continue to reduce the areas little by little, until there is no more nature to develop.
Therefore, the challenge for the new government will be to take measures to safeguard nature when the transition to a low-emission society is implemented. Only in this way can the “green change” really become green.