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15th Apr 2024

Norway adopts EU climate goal, officials downplay Paris

Non-EU member Norway announced it would match the EU's climate targets on Wednesday (4 February), while two top figures in the climate negotiations downplayed expectations for this year's Paris meeting.

The Norwegian government announced that it would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which lead to possibly catastrophic global warming, with 40 percent by 2030, compared to the 1990 level.

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In October 2014, EU government leaders set the same goal.

“The EU is leading the way in the efforts to combat anthropogenic [human-made] climate change. … We are suggesting a reduction commitment for Norway that is equally ambitious as the EU commitment”, the Norwegian government wrote in a statement.

Greenpeace's Norwegian branch dismissed the announcement as “unambitious”, while oil company Statoil called it “an amazingly demanding goal”, according to Reuters.

Reuters brought to memory the Norwegian target announced in 2008, when the Nordic country said it would be carbon neutral by 2030, meaning it would cut net emissions to zero.

Norway says its climate goal “will be in line” with the internationally agreed target of not allowing the global average temperature to rise with more than two degrees Celsius, a dangerous threshold which scientists say would bring with it irreversible changes.

For example, with a four degree celsius rise, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change expects “substantial species extinction, global and regional food insecurity, consequential constraints on common human activities, and limited potential for adaptation in some cases”.

But 10 months ahead of a climate summit in Paris, some of the key players are already downplaying expectations that a global agreement on emissions reduction would achieve staying under two degrees Celsius.

The pledges countries have made so far will “not get us onto the 2C pathway”, the UN's Christiana Figueres said on Wednesday.

"That is not a discovery, that is not a breaking news item", Figueres added.

The EU's climate commissioner, Miguel Arias Canete, noted that while remaining below two degrees is “an objective”, all is not lost if the Paris agreement does not lead to that goal.

“If we have an ongoing process you can not say it is a failure if the mitigation commitments do not reach 2C”, Canete said according to the Guardian.

Since the Kyoto agreement in 1997, which was ratified only by a part of the world's countries, there has not been a binding international climate agreement. In December 2015, climate negotiators meet in Paris to thrash out a deal which involves all nations.

Differently from previous approaches, the process leading up to Paris is bottom-up, with countries themselves coming forward with reduction targets, the so-called intended nationally determined contributions.

During the most recent climate conference, in the Peruvian capital, a thorough assessment of all countries' contributions has been traded for a UN 'analysis', to be published just a month ahead of the Paris meeting.

That means that if the combined effort of the world's countries is not enough to stay below the two degree Celsius level, it will be hard to tell a specific country it should do more.

But that is a consequence of the whole bottom-up approach, Poland's climate envoy recently told this website.

“The whole idea … of an assessment is not compatible with the logic of UN negotiations”, said Marcin Korolec.

“The sovereign government of a country will present intended nationally determined contributions. … You cannot say to country X: your sovereign decisions are not appropriate.”

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