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Cicerone 4-2005

“Easy to be a low-emissions society”

“Norway can easily reduce its emissions by two thirds within 2050. It doesn’t even have to be expensive if we start right now and reduce emissions gradually,” says Jørgen Randers, director of the Norwegian Commission on Low Emissions.

The Norwegian Commission on Low Emissions, led by Jørgen Randers from the Norwegian School of Management, was appointed by the government on 11 March 2005. Its task is to find out how Norway can reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases by 50 to 80 percent by 2050.

“This is a great challenge, but absolutely possible to meet,” he says. “There is so much we can do even now, not to mention the solutions the future will bring that we don’t even know about yet.”

Hybrid car a good example

Randers holds forth the hybrid car as an example of how Norway can be a low-emissions society at relatively low cost – if we start early and introduce measures gradually.

“In the long run, a mass-produced hybrid car will not cost any more than a gasoline-powered car. If all cars were to be exchanged today, it would be incredibly expensive. But it will not cost anything at all if each person were to wait until he or she was going to buy a new car anyway. This is why it is so important to start early and introduce the low-emissions society gradually,” says Randers.

Input and debate on the Internet

According to Randers, the Commission comprises an expert panel that is both committed and knowledgeable in the area of climate and energy issues. The members are drawn from among the major Norwegian companies, organizations, and research institutes that focus on energy issues.

“We are genuinely interested in input from others. Among other things, we will have four open hearings throughout the country. In addition, everyone can participate in the debate on how Norway can be a low-emissions society through our website at www.lavutslipp.no,” he says.

In about a year, the Commission will submit a report that describes how Norway can cut emissions by two-thirds relative to today’s levels. The report will contain a list of measures that are the most relevant for the Norwegian society to reach its target, and how these measures can be implemented. It is important for the Commission that the measures in Norway do not lead to comparable emissions increases abroad, for example by emissions-intensive industry relocating in other countries.

“We will focus particularly on measures that really make a difference, such as carbon capture and storage and hybrid cars. But it is also important to include the many small contributions that added up make it possible to reach such an ambitious target,” says Randers. “Drastic cuts are necessary”

Randers believes that it is necessary to make drastic cuts in emissions because the climate problem is the greatest challenge facing humans today.

“We have many other problems, but in my opinion global warming is the most serious in the long term. The climate problem is closely connected to other challenges such as poverty and biodiversity. If we, for example, do something about the poverty in the world but nothing about the climate, the poverty problems will return because of climate change.

“We also have the ethical problem of subjecting future generations to changes in the climate as a result of our greenhouse gas emissions. We can do something now and pay a little in the short term. Or we can wait until we are forced to act and then have to pay a high price,” he says.

Norway’s credibility in the climate negotiations

”For Norway’s part, early action can increase our credibility as a pusher in the international climate negotiations, inspire others to do the same, and encourage development of new technology that can be sold on the world market. If Norway, which is one of the world’s richest countries, cannot contribute to mitigating climate change, who in the world can?”

Randers believes it can be difficult to solve the problem administratively by introducing laws and regulations alone. As an economist, he has more faith in market forces and use of price mechanisms.

“Norwegians are unbelievably sensitive to price. If we only make it more expensive to use goods that are emissions intensive, it will take a long time before we have cut emissions drastically in Norway. If the price of energy is increased, so many emissions-effective solutions would be developed that we would be able to live with about the same standard of living as we have today,” believes Randers.

Higher prices necessary

”But it is not easy to introduce higher gas prices. The political support for this is not exactly high. The high gasoline price we have today because of oil scarcity has, as always, led to vociferous protest from car-owners. But we have also recently seen a small wave of creative solutions for reducing gasoline expenses, and thus also emissions of CO2. This is what we want more of in the future. The price of emissions-intensive goods must be increase if we are to reach the goal of drastic cuts in Norway’s greenhouse gas emissions.”

Find out more about the Norwegian Commission on Low Emissions and participate in the debate on www.lavutslipp.no.

Last updated: 16.10.2005

LOW EMISSIONS. Chair of the Norwegian Commission on Low Emissions, Professor Jørgen Randers from the Norwegian School of Management, wants input from everyone about how Norway can become a low-emissions society. (Photo: Petter Haugneland)LOW EMISSIONS. Chair of the Norwegian Commission on Low Emissions, Professor Jørgen Randers from the Norwegian School of Management, wants input from everyone about how Norway can become a low-emissions society. (Photo: Petter Haugneland)

“We have many other problems, but in my opinion global warming is the most serious in the long term.”

Find out more about the Norwegian Commission on Low Emissions and participate in the debate on www.lavutslipp.no.
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