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Norway's Greenhouse Gas Emissions: A Quick Summary

Norway, along with every other country in the world (apart from the USA), has signed up to the Paris Agreement, which calls for all parties to work towards achieving the goal of limiting our emissions of greenhouse gases, gases that lead to global warming.

But how has Norway been doing so far, up until the Paris Agreement was signed in late 2015? This article will discuss Norway's emissions, across all sectors and different gases, and point to some of the success stories and some of the challenges.

This post is based around graphs. The first one shows the overall picture of how Norwegian emissions of greenhouse gases have changed between 1990 and 2015, the latest year for which detailed data are available from the Norwegian Statistics Agency, SSB.

Download image: English | Norsk

First off we see that emissions have basically been flat since the mid-1990s. A few ups and downs, but basically flat at around 50-55 million tonnes (Mt) of CO2-equivalent (CO2e) emissions per year. (CO2e is a measure used to combine different gases together as to the equivalent amount of CO2.)

The figure below shows exactly the same data in the form of a line graph, and here we can more easily see the development of each of these sectors over time.

Download image: English | Norsk

First of all we see that the three main sectors are Transport, Oil and Gas (production), and Industry. We also see that these three sectors have very different trends. Transport emissions have increased since 1990, although they've flattened out in the last 8-10 years. Oil and gas production emissions (emissions from Norway's extraction and production of crude oil and natural gas) have increased sharply since 1990, but again been relatively flat for the last ten years. Industry emissions have declined markedly.

Don't worry, I discuss all of these sectors in much more detail below.

Agriculture is the next-largest sector by emissions, and its emissions have hardly changed at all since 1990. There are some interesting stories hidden in that apparent constancy.

The remaining sectors in Norway are small. Emissions from energy supply, large in most countries, are low in Norway because of the almost total reliance on hydropower for electricity generation. But notice there was a bump around 2010, and emissions are higher now than they were.

Emissions from buildings (largely heating) have been declining, and are now about half what they were in 1990. Emissions from waste has also been declining, while emissions from 'Other' sectors have been gradually increasing.


The figure below shows the total transport emissions divided up into the available sub-categories, with the most important ones labelled.

Download image: English | Norsk

The bottom of the figure shows the transition from petrol engines to diesel engines in cars, following the government's incentivisation of diesel cars. These incentives were put in place at the time when we learnt that diesel cars are less polluting and more efficient. Remember, this was before we learnt that they are more polluting and less efficient.

But when we look at the total for cars, the total emissions have increased only very slightly, from about 5.5 Mt to about 5.8 Mt over this period. This is despite the total kilometres travelled in Norway for petrol and diesel cars having increased by over 16% just from 2005 to 2015. The average on-road emissions of new cars sold in Norway has declined from about 200 gCO2/km in 2001 to 140 gCO2/km in 2015.

If emissions from cars are not causing the increase in the Transport sector's emissions, then what is? The figure shows us that emissions from both heavy diesel vehicles and tractors/heavy machinery have increased, and these are driving Transport emissions up. Farmers are buying larger tractors (the share of imported new tractors over 130 horsepower increased from 6% in 2001 to 53% in 2016), and increased construction in Norway's growing economy means more and more heavy machinery.

Oil and Gas Production

Norway is a significant producer of both oil and gas, and we know that when those fuels are eventually burned – mostly outside of Norway – they lead to significant emissions. But why does the extraction of these fuels lead to emissions in Norway?

The figure below shows that by far the two largest sources of emissions in this sector are from the use of natural gas to drive turbines, both offshore on the platforms and onshore. These turbines supply the power necessary to run the platforms, including drilling and pumping.

Download image: English | Norsk


'Industry' is a bit of a bucket term for a large range of different industrial emissions. Importantly, SSB's use of this term is different to the IPCC term 'Industrial Process emissions'. Here Industry includes all industrial process emissions in addition to stationary energy consumption (combustion of fossil fuels other than for transport) in industrial facilities.

Download image: English | Norsk

We see here that 'process' emissions from Norway's Aluminium sector have declined strongly. These emissions include CO2, but also perflourocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexaflouride (SF6), which result from the process of converting alumium oxide into pure aluminium.

The emissions of PFCs have dropped dramatically, from 3.9 Mt in 1990 to only 190 kt in 2016. This is largely a result of addressing something called the 'anode effect'. Whenever this effect occurs, aluminium production stalls, so reducing the frequency of these events not only reduces emissions but improves efficiency. A win-win.

The third-largest Industry emissions source in 1990, which has decreased significantly, was process emissions from production of Nitric Acid, an ingredient used in nitrogen fertiliser production. In 1990 N2O (lystgass) emissions from production of nitric acid were higher than those from all of agriculture. Emissions have declined because the industry has introduced technology to decompose N2O at the end of the process.

Norwegian industry has produced a detailed roadmap for further reductions in emissions.


I've previously written a full blog post on emissions from Norwegian agriculture, so check that out. But from a glance you can see that half of all agricultural emissions are from ruminant livestock: methane emitted (mostly burped) because of fermentation in their rumens. Sheep and cattle.

Download image: English | Norsk


Emissions from heating of buildings in Norway are declining as remaining oil-fired heating is replaced with electric heating, with the assistance of government subsidies.

Download image: English | Norsk

Energy Supply

The two major components in the energy supply sector are from electricity production and waste incineration. Waste incineration is included here under Energy Supply because the heat generated is used for both electricity and district heating.

Download image: English | Norsk

The waste incineration plant at Klemetsrud, Oslo, is the largest of its kind in Norway. Emissions of CO2 from Klemetsrud were approximately flat from 1987–2010, at about 150 kt/yr, but doubled to 300kt in 2012. However, about half of the CO2 emissions from Klemetsrud are from burning biomass (waste organic material). Klemetsrud is one of the three pilot projects in Norway chosen to demonstrate carbon capture and storage (CCS), although funding is currently uncertain.

While Norway's electricity supply comes almost exclusively from hydropower, two gas-powered plants were commissioned in the late 2000s.

First came Krst, which was half owned by Statoil and half by Statkraft. It had a capacity of 430 MW, but was mothballed in late 2014 after having operated well below capacity in 2012-14 and losing some 100 million NOK a year.

In 2009, the facility at Mongstad began producing electricity, amid significant controversy. It was only permitted against the promise of CCS being installed at a later date. This plant is now planned for closure at the end of 2018.

Other emissions in this category come from some district heating infrastructure still using fuel oil and LPG.


Emissions from waste result from decomposition of organic materials in landfills into methane and CO2. Since 2009 disposal of organic waste to landfill has been banned in Norway, so the stock of organic matter in those landfills is gradually decomposing and emissions are declining.
Download image: English | Norsk


In the 'Other' sector, the largest contribution by far is from products using flourinated gases, including refrigeration and air conditioning equipment.

Download image: English | Norsk

Why have these emissions grown so incredibly strongly? When the Montreal Protocol led to the banning of CFCs and HCFCs, previously used in spray aerosols, refrigeration and air conditioning, but highly damaging to the ozone layer, substitutes must be found, and these included the HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons).

Because the new HFCs have substantially less ozone-depleting potential, the ozone layer is slowly recovering. However, HFCs are greenhouse gases. Importantly, CFCs and HCFCs are also greenhouse gases, and in some cases with more warming potential than HFCs. But because CFCs and HCFCs are covered by the Montreal Protocol, an earlier international treaty, they are not covered under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and therefore not included in nations' total greenhouse gas emissions inventories.

The Montreal Protocol is much stricter than the treaties under the UNFCCC (e.g., the Kyoto Protocol), requiring complete cessation of use of the regulated gases by all parties, while the Kyoto Protocol required only partial reductions by a subset of parties (those listed in Annex B of the Protocol).

HFCs are contained within refrigeration and air conditioning systems, but because of leaks during normal operation and also in maintenance, and uncontrolled release at the end of life of the product, HFCs nevertheless escape to the atmosphere and lead to warming.

International Transport

The observant will note that I haven't discussed emissions from Norwegians' international travel and transportation here. These are excluded from the UNFCCC inventories, and not part of Norway's responsibilities.

The primary reason for this is the difficulty in calculating these emissions. While we know how much fuel Norway supplies for international navigation (shipping) and air transport, a good fraction of that fuel is combusted in transporting non-Norwegians and goods to other markets. There is therefore no agreed method on how to allocate these emissions to individual countries.

Final Thoughts

What I've described here is where emissions in Norway occur. These emissions are those that Norway is responsible for in international agreements. But that's a different question to what individuals in Norway are responsible for, and what we can do about our own personal carbon footprint. For addressing that question you want to look at the 'consumption-based' emissions accounts.

In Norway, most of the oil and gas is exported. No actions a Norwegian in their role as a consumer could take would have any effect on the emissions resulting from the production of that exported oil and gas. On the flipside, Norwegians import many goods from other countries, and the emissions resulting from their production are not included in the numbers presented in this article, but by most general senses of responsibility should be included in an individual Norwegian's footprint.

I plan to address these questions in a future post.

Further Reading

Much more information about Norway's emissions are presented in the Environment Agency's annual National Inventory Report to the UNFCCC.

See also this article by SSB about what is and what is not covered by their emissions statistics. In particular, note that SSB produces another set of emissions statistics alongside those I've summarised here. That other set shows emissions from Norwegian economic activity, no matter where it happens in the world. The most significant difference is that this other account includes emissions from Norwegian shipping and air transport firms outside of Norway.

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