Norway says aims to go carbon neutral by 2030
By John Acher and Camilla Bergsli
OSLO (Reuters) - Norway, which last year set what it called the world's most ambitious target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions, said on Thursday it aimed to go "carbon neutral" in 2030, which is 20 years earlier than its previous target.
The new target was set when the Labour-led coalition government reached agreement with three opposition parties to bring the goal forward from 2050.
The government said last year that Norway would aim to cut net emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) to nil by 2050 by reducing emissions at home and investing abroad in environmental projects that will give Norway CO2 reduction credits.
The plan includes offsetting Norwegian emissions by spending around 3 billion crowns ($553.1 million) per year to combat deforestation in developing countries. Forests act as a sink for CO2, the main greenhouse gas blamed for causing global warming.
Under the Kyoto Protocol curbing greenhouse emissions, countries do not get credit for the effect of their own forests, but they can get credits by planting trees in developing lands.
"The parties now think it is realistic to assume reductions in Norwegian climate gas emissions of 15-17 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents by 2020 when forests are included," the government said in a statement.
Three million metric tons of that reduction would come from Norway's forests absorbing carbon, it said.
The initial target was to cut 13-16 million metric tons of CO2.
Achieving the target will require cutting Norway's total emissions by two-thirds domestically, the statement said.
Environmental groups said the deal was too vague, and Oil and Energy Minister Aaslaug Haga acknowledged: "We don't know how we will achieve the goals yet, and that is challenging."
A "significant sum" of money will be earmarked for investment in renewable energy, mass transport and measures to reduce emissions from the transport sector, while tax on diesel fuel will rise by 0.1 crowns ($0.018) per liter and on gasoline by 0.05 crowns, the government said.
"Both carrot and stick will be used to promote more environmentally friendly behavior and to reduce climate gas emissions," the centre-left coalition said.
Finance Minister Kristin Halvorsen of the Socialist Left (SV) party said the policy would lead to reductions in greenhouse gas emissions both in Norway and abroad.
"The agreement gives Norway a far-sighted climate policy that can stand independently of shifting governments," Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said in the statement.
Stoltenberg, who heads the Labour Party, has said Norway's policy on cutting CO2 emissions is the world's most ambitious and he has likened the challenge of fighting climate change to a "moon landing" for the 21st century.
Norway, with a population of just 4.7 million, is the world's fifth-biggest exporter of oil and Western Europe's biggest exporter of natural gas.
Endowed with rivers and waterfalls, it gets almost all its own electricity from non-polluting hydroelectric stations. But the Nordic country aims to begin burning natural gas for power generation in the future to satisfy growing demand.
The government wants emissions from such power plants to be captured and buried, a technology still under development.
"The agreement implies technologies that are not known yet," Stoltenberg told a news conference.
The government said it would spend an extra 70 million crowns ($12.91 million) this year on research into renewable energy and carbon capture and storage this year, and funding for such research would rise to at least 600 million in 2010.
(Reporting by John Acher; editing by Anthony Barker)