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How do Norway’s CO2 emissions compare to other countries?

Norway can be seen as either a relatively green country or one of the worlds largest polluters, depending on whether you include emissions which occur abroad as a result of its oil trade.

Pictured is the chimney of an industrial building emitting fumes. When taking emissions per capita into account Norway is one of the worlds top 20 CO2 producers.
Pictured is the chimney of an industrial building emitting fumes. When taking emissions per capita into account Norway is one of the worlds top 20 CO2 producers. Photo by veeterzy on Unsplash

Norway has long been in the strange juxtaposition of being perceived as one of Europe’s greener countries while being one of the continent’s biggest natural oil and gas producers. 

While most new cars sold in the country are electric, and the coalition government has announced several carbon-cutting goals as part of its government policy platform, the nation of 5.3 million will continue to develop its oil industry and press on with exploration for gas and “black gold”. 

Within its own borders, then Norway is only the world’s 61st biggest CO2 polluter, according to data on the country’s carbon dioxide output provided by climate researchers Cicero and the Global Carbon Project for broadcaster NRK

The country emits 41 million tonnes of CO2 annually, according to figures it submits to the UN. This pales in comparison to the 329 million tonnes released by the UK, the 1.5 billion tonnes emitted by Russia, the 4.7 billion tonnes the USA has reported to the UN, and the more than 10 billion tonnes China discharges.

By this metric, Norway looks to be relatively green. However, when emissions per capita are considered, Norway leapfrogs the UK and China, emitting 7.7 tonnes per person.

These figures don’t consider the environmental impact of the country’s oil and gas trade. Most of the industry’s emissions occur outside of Norway and are therefore not included in the national figures. 

READ ALSO: How will climate change impact Norway?

When emissions released by the oil and gas trade outside of the country’s borders are accounted for then Norway becomes the 17th largest nation in terms of CO2 output. 

Additionally, when emissions produced outside its borders are taken into consideration, carbon dioxide generated per person in Norway jumps from 7.7 tonnes to 93.6. This puts Norway fourth overall, behind oil giants Qatar, Kuwait and Brunei. 

Norway’s petroleum minister, Marte Mjøs Persen, told NRK that the country wasn’t responsible for emissions produced abroad as a result of oil and gas exports. 

“Not according to the Paris Agreement. There we are responsible for the emissions we have in the Norwegian sector,” Persen told NRK. 

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OIL

Norway sees oil in its future despite IEA’s warnings

Norway, Western Europe's biggest oil producer, plans to continue its oil exploration and drilling in the coming decades, the government said on Friday, despite warnings from the International Energy Agency (IEA).

Norway sees oil in its future despite IEA's warnings
A North Sea oil rig. Photo by Jan-Rune Smenes Reite from Pexels

In a white book on its energy future, Oslo said it wanted to “extend the current practice with regular concession cycles on the Norwegian continental shelf to give the industry access to new prospecting zones.”

“We will supply energy to the world as long as the demand exists,” Oil and Energy Minister Tina Bru told a press conference.

“The government will therefore maintain an oil policy that facilitates profitable oil and gas production in the framework of the Norwegian climatepolicy and our climate goals,” she said.

The Scandinavian country aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by between 50 and 55 percent by 2030, and to almost nothing by 2050.

But it is regularly criticised for the CO2 emissions generated abroad by the oil it exports.

READ MORE: Norway taps oil wealth to cushion Covid impact

This week, Norway launched a call for applications for a new licensing round in new offshore zones.

The Norwegian position contrasts sharply with that of the IEA, which recently warned that all future fossil fuel projects must be scrapped if the world is to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

International observers have criticised the Norwegian position.

“The Norwegian government and industry cannot ignore science,” said Sandrine Dixson-Decleve, co-president of international think tank The Club of Rome.

“We look to Norway for leadership and ambition on the energy transition – not complacency and backtracking,” she said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the head of climate and energy issues at the WWF, Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, said that “by standing on the side of fossil fuel interests, Norway risks having stranded assets.”

“Norway’s position will increase the risk of the world reaching fragile climate tipping points, which in turn will cause devastating impacts on the natural world on which we depend,” he said.

In 2018, Norway was the world’s 14th biggest producer of oil and 8th biggest producer of natural gas, according to the latest figures from the US Energy Information Administration.

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