Norway, UK Try to Tackle Planes' Greenhouse Gases
OSLO -- Norway plans to join Britain in offsetting greenhouse gases caused by bureaucrats jetting around the world, announcing it will buy emissions quotas to combat global warming.
Emissions from jet fuel burnt on international flights are among the fastest-growing sources of greenhouse gases with cheaper flights but are exempted under the U.N.'s Kyoto Protocol for fighting climate change until 2012.
"The government has decided that when state employees travel by plane abroad, we will buy quotas for the emissions caused by the trip," Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said in a New Year speech. He did not say how much it would cost.
Britain has been capturing emissions by government and ministerial air travel since April 2006. The government said last week it was spending up to 3 million pounds ($5.92 million) to buy 255,000 tonnes of carbon credits for 2007-09.
"These two governments are the only ones I know of with these projects," said Sue Welland, founder of the British-based CarbonNeutral Company which promotes investments in solar power, windmills or forests to counter emissions from fossil fuels.
"A lot of companies are doing this already -- in that respect governments are behind the private sector," Welland said. She said corporate tenders rose tenfold in late 2006 over a year earlier and individuals were getting far more involved.
Companies including car rental group Avis Europe or Norwegian oil group Statoil are among those offsetting emissions from employees' flights. Some airlines offer the option of paying extra to offset emissions.
A 2002 U.N. Earth Summit in Johannesburg was the first major governmental meeting to try to be "carbon neutral", funding renewable energy projects to soak up emissions from delegates' use of fossil fuels in everything from transport to electricity.
But only a handful of nations among 200 signed up and the project fell far short of a $5 million target.
"I think this is a very good idea when international aviation is not a part of the Kyoto Protocol," Lars Haltbrekken, chairman of Friends of the Earth Norway, said of the government offsets.
Still, it might smack of tokenism.
Norway is the world's number three oil producer and greenhouse gas emissions were 10.3 percent above 1990 levels in 2004. Britain's emissions were 14.3 percent below 1990 after a sharp decline in use of polluting coal.
Kyoto obliges 35 rich nations to cut emissions to 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-12 as a first step to prevent a warming that most scientists say will cause floods, heatwaves, extinctions and raise global sea levels.