Robbie Andrew

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Norway's emissions exports

First published: 1 November 2016

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Discussion

The emissions of CO2 that occur within Norway's territory are dwarfed by the emissions that result from combustion of all the oil and gas Norway produces. Because these fossil fuels are exported before being combusted, the emissions are allocated to the accounts of other countries. If Norway had generated electricity from the gas and then exported the electricity, for example, then emissions from that electricity generation would be allocated to Norway's accounts. There is therefore an element of artificiality associated with this allocation. It takes two to tango.

Norway's territorial emissions of CO2 were about 45 Mt in 2015, and over 1971–2015 totalled about 1.7 Gt. In comparison, emissions from Norwegian oil and gas since 1971 have been about 16 Gt. A similar amount (~16 Gt) will be emitted if all remaining Norwegian oil and gas resources are extracted from the continental shelf. In 2015, emissions from Norwegian oil and gas amounted to almost 100 tonnes of CO2 for every person in Norway.

Norway is responsible in the international arena only for emissions that occur within its territory. But responsibility is only this black and white in international negotiations where responsibility is strictly accounted. In other areas Norway takes responsibility beyond what is required by regulations and accounting rules, including the significant divestment of the pension fund from unethical activities.

In real life responsibility is more than just what we are told to do. That is the baseline, and does not excuse us from taking steps to address additional responsibilities. By signing the Paris Agreement, Norway has not only pledged to reduce territorial emissions, but to do its best to help hold the level of global warming below 2°C. Nobody likes double-counting, because it makes management more difficult, but the reality is that Norway has some responsibility for the emissions resulting from all of the oil and gas it extracts and sells. Norway has that responsibility, but the question is whether it will accept it. The transition to a fossil-free Norway must accelerate rapidly.

Sources

Territorial emissions data are sourced from SSB. Emissions from 1990 onwards are from the current official series, while pre-1990 data come from an older publication.

Emissions from Norway's extraction of oil and gas, both historical and forecast, are calculated from production data published by the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, combined with generic emissions factors. The estimates of emissions here are approximate.

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