Each month, “Ambassador’s Insights” will address various topics facing modern Norway and the bilateral relations between Norway and the U.S. This article first appeared in Viking’s October 2019 issue.

illustration of the Earth with people surrounding itWhen I was growing up, Norway wasn’t the rich, oil-producing, technologically advanced country that you see today. The last import restrictions on cars weren’t lifted until 1960. Telephone coverage was spotty: If you wanted a phone in your house, you might have to wait up to two years for a technician to come install one.

In the years since, the country has changed a lot. We probably have the most modern fleet of cars in the world. And practically every household in Norway, even in the most remote areas, has access to broadband. But now we have different challenges to solve—for instance, how to make Norway a low-emission society.

Norway’s 2016 climate law requires us to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 80–95% by 2050. This will be a tall order—but all countries must aim high if the goals of the Paris Agreement are to be achieved.

Our recent climate law is part of Norway’s contribution to limiting global warming to well below 2°C. As a step along the way, Norway aims to limit emissions by at least 40% by 2030.

To achieve this, a serious transformation of our society will have to take place, a transformation that will have consequences for all of us.

In Norway, we recognize that taking the climate challenge seriously will come with costs. But failing to act in time could be even more costly. With new business opportunities arising, countries and businesses quick to adapt to a low-emission society may prove to be the most competitive in the decades to come.

As a small country with an open economy, Norway can’t do this alone. In June, the Norwegian Parliament approved a detailed agreement with the European Union on how to reach our shared climate goals. Under the agreement, Norway will continue to tighten the emissions trading system for industry and the fossil fuel sector, while providing incentives for the business sector to innovate and develop low-emission solutions. That way, Norway contributes to reducing emissions throughout Europe.

In most countries, one of the biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions is transportation. In Norway we have made significant progress in reducing those emissions, in particular with increased shares of electrical vehicles and with electrical ferries. As of 2019, more than 50% of new cars sold in Norway are electric. But we need to go further.

We will continue to electrify cars, buses and ships, and start testing electric planes (yes, it can be done). Together with the maritime industry, we will
move to green solutions in all segments
of shipping.

We couldn’t do this alone. We don’t make the electric cars ourselves, and the maritime industry needs a bigger market to really go all in on green shipping. The fact that all EU countries are working to reduce their emissions gives us confidence to keep setting ambitious targets, and to challenge our business and industry to keep innovating for green solutions.

I strongly believe that a combination of curbing emission and promoting green competitiveness is the key to reducing the risk of dangerous climate change for the benefit of future generations.

Given the grave consequences of global warming—more extreme weather, damages to infrastructure, reduced global food production and possible conflicts over water and other resources—it is in our own interest to take the challenges seriously.

We managed to overcome the phone shortage in Norway all those years ago. I am convinced that we will also find ways to drastically reduce emissions of greenhouse gases.

About the Author

Ambassador Kåre R. Aas currently serves as Norway’s Ambassador to the United States.