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Key Policy Instruments

With regard to pollution from industry, the main instrument in Norway has been the use of regulations through a licensing system, supported by economic instruments such as subsidised zones. The regulation used during the ten year period from 1975-1985 are often labeled the "first generation" of regulations. Through the implementation of the "Ten Year Action Plan for Cleaning Up Pollution from Old Industry" major improvements were made with regards to pollution from old industry. The "second generation" of regulations, from 1986 and onwards, not only include stringer adherence to the recipient principle, but also changes in the licensing system. In addition, companies are now obligated to develop systems of internal control and monitoring of the environmental impact of their activity.

The Pollution Control Act
The legal basis for controlling the industry is the Pollution Control Act, according to which persons have a general duty to avoid pollution. The licensing system is based on general prohibition from which exceptions may be granted. Through the Product Control Act a general duty is stipulated to take due care for those who produce, import, market, process, use or handle products that may cause damage to health or disturbances of the environment.

Informative instruments
Regulated labeling may also be considered an informative instrument, since it provides the consumer with environmental information about the product. As to energy conservation, the most important instrument has also been information in order to promote the introduction of new, energy efficient technology as well as changing consumers' patterns of energy consumption.

A voluntary program of environmental labeling has been running since 1989. The Swan symbol was introduced by the Nordic Council of Ministers in 1989. It is the only existing multinational scheme covering Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Finland. In order to gain the label, the manufacturing process has to undergo an environmental assessment.

The licensing system has to a certain degree been supplemented by economic instruments as the MoE from 1974-1990 had the opportunity to guarantee loans to finance instruments imposed on the polluter. These measures were altered in 1991, and are now aimed at initiatives for reducing hazardous waste, for recycling and for better environmental technology.

Market instruments
In addition the SPCA administers funds that are meant to support initiatives promoting environmentally cleaner technology. As for other economic instruments, Norway has sulphur charges, CO2 tax, and a domestic trading system for GHGs. Important parts of the industry are exempted from the CO2 tax; e.g. energy used as a raw material in industrial process, gas consumption in refineries on land, air traffic, the fishing fleet and the coastal traffic fleet.

Energy saving - institutions and grants
State grant programmes to promote energy saving instruments in building and industry have been introduced. As such a key institution is Enova SF that became operational on 1 January 2002. Enova SF is a public enterprise owned by the Norwegian Ministry of Petroleum and Energy and its main mission is to contribute to environmentally sound and rational use and production of energy, relying on financial instruments and incentives to stimulate market actors and mechanisms to achieve national energy policy goals. The establishment of Enova SF signals a shift in Norway's organisation and implementation of its energy efficiency and renewable energy policy.

By gathering strategic policy responsibilities in a small, flexible and market oriented organisation, Norway has wanted to create a pro-active agency that has the capacity to stimulate energy efficiency by motivating cost-effective and environmentally sound investment decisions. Enova SF enjoys considerable freedom with regard to the choice and composition of its strategic foci and policy measures.


From 1970 onwards a string of new laws followed which aimed at regulating specific forms of environmental effects and certain social activities that have significant on natural resources or environmental qualities.

The Ministry of the Environment provides an online overview (in Norwegian only) of environmental legislation which it and its subordinate Directorates administer.
The following are among the most important:

  • The Open-air Recreation Act of 1957
  • The Nature Conservation Act of 1970
  • The Product Control Act of 1976, which regulates the safety of consumer products for human health and the environment
  • The Cultural Heritage Act of 1978 (In Norway, as opposed to most other countries, cultural heritage falls within the remit of the Ministry of the Environment rather than e.g. the Ministry of Culture)
  • The Pollution Control Act of 1981
  • The Wildlife Act of 1981
  • The Planning and Building Act of 1985 (currently being revised; only the provisions relating to planning are administered by the Ministry of the Environment, while those relating to buildings are administered by the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development)
  • The Freshwater Fishing Act of 1991 (freshwater fishing is regulated by the Ministry of the Environment, as opposed to saltwater fisheries which are regulated by the Ministry of Fisheries)
  • The Genetic Technology Act of 1993
  • The Svalbard Environmental Protection Act of 2001
  • The Environmental Information Act of 2003, which incorporates the Aarhus Convention into Norwegian law
  • The Greenhouse Gas Emissions (Permits) Act of 2004, revised in 2007.

Much environmentally important legislation is administered by other ministries. This includes legislation on the development of watercourses and energy resources, which is administered by the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy; fishing quotas, permits for aquaculture and other regulations governing saltwater fisheries, which are administered by the Ministry of Fisheries; regulations regarding agricultural and forestry practices, which are administered by the Ministry of Agriculture and Food; and most legislation concerning the transport sector, other than provisions for emissions standards and planning permits for infrastructure development, which are administered by the Ministry of Transport and Communications. Also, green taxes are the responsibility of the Ministry of Finance.

The Aarhus convention: The right to environmental information
The most recent development in Norwegian environmental legislation is the legislation guaranteeing citizens the right to environmental information on demand, part-implementing the UN's 1998 Århus convention on public involvement in environmental decision-making. The law enables the public to follow and gain perspective over the development of environmental problems at national and local level.

Integration of EU environmental laws
Norway, although not a member of the EU, has access to the EU internal market through the agreement of the European Economic Area (EEA). The agreement commits Norway to implement all EU-legislation related to the internal market as well as most of EU environmental legislation.

The EU has produced more than 400 environmental laws which the members are obliged to follow. Through the EEA agreement, the EU is responsible for 80-90% of Norway's environmental legislation. The implementation of EU environmental laws through the EEA agreement has led to a general strengthening of Norwegian environmental regulation, even though there are important exceptions. Norwegian legislation and management has been strengthened in areas like phasing-out ozone-depleting substances, environmental impact assessment and air and drinking water quality. When it comes to food additives, Norway has had to lower its level of protection. Norway has received extensive environmental legislation on chemicals and biocides, which it would have been difficult for Norway to draft on its own due to lack of resources.

Since 1994 Norway has integrated 152 EU environmental laws into national legislation. The EEA agreement basically gives Norway the same limitations as EU member states within the areas covered by the agreement. However, Norway has less influence on EU and EEA environmental policies than the EU member states.

Re-negotiation of the EEA agreement in 1998
On the particular areas where Norway has wanted a stronger legislation than EU maximum directives intend, Norway has negotiated transition agreements and exceptions. However, by the re-negotiation of the EEA agreement in 1998, most of the transition agreements had been made redundant by the development within the EU. The EU legislation had, in other words, caught up with Norway's in these areas.
Norway has since 1988 voluntarily abstained from developing environmental regulation which differs from that of the EU. In addition, there are more examples of Norway awaiting EU development of new or stronger legislation, rather than doing this on its own. The Norwegian Government is deliberately avoiding to use the full action space that the EEA agreement theoretically gives (use of the veto right), as it wants to protect the EEA agreement. The Norwegian Parliament representatives only to a small extent exploit the possibilities that exist for contact and informal influence on the political processes within the EU. The EU has become the main driving force behind Norwegian environmental legislation.


[Last updated: 18.08.2008]