20 Nov 2017

Nordic action on climate change: towards carbon-neutral economy

The Nordic Council of Ministers has issued a 2017 edition of “Nordic Action on Climate Change”, to portray actions the Nordic countries are taking to speed the transition to sustainable low-carbon societies.

The Paris climate accord of 2015 calls for global peaking of greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible and rapid reductions of emissions thereafter in accordance with best available science, which is the way to limit average global warming to below 2 degrees Celsius relative to pre-industrial levels, the agreement.

“Nordic Action on Climate Change” shows that effective mitigation actions can also improve economic performance, spur investment, create jobs and have positive impacts in other areas such as health and energy security in all types of economies.

“The rapid development in recent years in renewable energy technologies, where Nordic stakeholders make important contributions, is a good example. We hope that our experiences will encourage others to instigate ambitious climate actions and realise opportunities to achieve green, climate-resilient growth around the world”, writes Peer Stiansen, Chair of the Nordic Working Group for Global Climate Negotiations (NOAK), in his foreword to the new edition of the brochure.

This decoupling of emissions from economic growth has already begun in the Nordics. The region’s CO2 emissions per unit of electricity produced were one fifth of the global average in 2016, while total GDP in the same year grew by 2.2% to EUR 1,073 billion. In 2014, 37% of energy consumption in the region was from renewable sources and 54% fossil-free.

Along with the EU, the Nordic countries aim to reduce their CO2 emissions at least 40% by 2030 compared to the 1990 level. Each country has also mapped out longer-term policies designed to work towards a shared Nordic vision for the decarbonisation of energy systems. Nordic national targets are likely to remain among the most ambitious of all the EU countries.

Denmark’s target to have the entire energy supply covered by renewable energy is expected to reduce emissions by 75%. Since 1990, Denmark has cut its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 27% and expects to achieve a 37% reduction by 2020. In addition to the further expansion of wind power, the country applies energy taxes, makes improvements in the electricity grid, promotes biofuels, and increases the use of surplus heat from industry in district heating.

Finland has a vision of cutting emissions by 80% become a sustainable low-carbon society based on efficient use of forests and innovations in bioenergy by 2050. In the 2020s, the share of renewable energy of final energy consumption is expected to exceed 50%, while the use of imported oil would halve compared to the 2005 level.

Greenland, home to the northern hemisphere’s largest icecap, gets about 70% of its power supply (heat and electricity) from renewables. Within the next few years that figure will increase to 100%. In order to meet this goal, Greenland’s energy sector will undergo modernisation, which includes a push to increase the sector’s energy efficiency.

The Faroe Islands’ Climate Policy (2009) aims to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by at least 20% of 2005-benchmark levels over the period 2010–2020. The government is promoting electricity for heating and road vehicles, and striving to further increase the share of renewable electricity production, which is currently at 50%.

Iceland has set the target of 50–75% cuts in net greenhouse gas emissions as an aspirational goal for 2050. Iceland’s greenhouse gas emissions profile is in many ways unique by international standards. Energy consumption per capita is the highest among OECD countries, with most of the energy consumed by power-intensive industries. In 2014, renewable energy—geothermal and hydropower—together accounted for 87% of total energy consumption and almost all electricity production and house heating.

Norway aims to be carbon-neutral by 2050. A key shorter-term target is to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by an amount equal to 30% of Norway’s 1990 emissions by 2020. This will be achieved by combining domestic reductions with the financing of emissions reductions abroad through the Kyoto Protocol’s flexible mechanisms. To reduce emissions in the transport sector, Norway has been actively promoting zero emission cars. More than 100,000 battery electric cars are today registered to run on Norway’s roads. The Norwegian government has set itself a target that all new passenger cars sold in 2025 shall be zero emission vehicles.

Sweden plans to have zero net emissions of greenhouse gases by 2045. The Swedish climate policy framework provides that, by 2030, all greenhouse gas emissions be cut 59% from the 2005 level and those of domestic transport by at least 70% from the 2010 level. A long-term ambition is that the national energy system should be based on 100% renewable energy. Renewable energy sources already account for 54% of total energy use, which means that Sweden has already met its renewables target for 2020.

Read more:

Nordic Action on Climate Change, 2017