Norway Is Trying

Posted on 17 December 2009 by editor

Norwegian Minister of Environment and International Development Erik Solheim. Credit: Rajiv Fernando/IPS

Norwegian Minister of Environment and International Development Erik Solheim. Credit: Rajiv Fernando/IPS

By Claudia Ciobanu*

COPENHAGEN (IPS/TerraViva) Norway is the world’s third largest donor in terms of development aid as a percentage of GDP. Norwegian Minister of Environment and International Development Erik Solheim spoke to IPS about the initiatives promoted by his country on environmental protection and its role during the Copenhagen negotiations.

Like most participants in the CoP15, Solheim declared himself not very optimistic about the fate of the talks, speaking to TerraViva on Thursday night, with just one day of negotiations remaining.

While there is still hope that the heads of state arriving in Copenhagen on Thursday might give a final positive impetus towards an agreement, the experience of the Norway delegation in the talks is a good illustration of why CoP15 is facing a stalemate at the moment.

Solheim was asked by the Danish government to head, together with the Singapore minister of environment, a meeting of all parties on international shipping and aviation, which are responsible for 20 percent of CO2 emissions from transport, that in turn produces 23 percent of all CO2 emissions.

But an agreement on reducing emissions from international shipping and aviation proved impossible to reach in Copenhagen.

“We think that a strong signal for emissions cuts should be included in the final Copenhagen agreements, but unfortunately no agreement was reached on this since our position was not shared by most nations there,” said Solheim.

“So it will have to happen in a more vague form. I don’t think we can include numbers but of course we can find a different way of formulating this, that emissions have to be in accordance with the 2 degree Celsius temperature increase target,” the minister added.

This means that much more discussion will have to follow after the CoP15 ends, in the framework of the International Maritime Organization and the International Civil Aviation Organization.

The same deadlock occurred in the talks on applying a levy on international aviation and shipping, which could be used for a fund for adaptation for developing countries.

In this case, “the main problem was to coordinate the fact that over 70 percent of the international shipping fleet is registered in developing countries and the general principle of common but differentiated responsibility,” Solheim said.

The failure of the talks on international transport illustrates how difficult it is to coordinate the positions of countries on climate change issues.

Yet Norway is a country which has been pushing ahead with its own initiatives, not constrained by international fora.

During CoP15, Norway and Mexico have launched the “Green Fund”, meant to provide predictable funding for climate adaptation and mitigation in developing countries.

Contributions to the fund should come from both public budgets and the auctioning of emissions allowances (a percentage of U.N. allowances would be internationally auctioned). Ten billion dollars per year are expected to be available through this fund starting from 2013.

“We think developing countries should have the option of choosing between the UN and the World Bank as administrators of this money, given that some of them want to work with the World Bank and others are reluctant to do so given their histories,” said Solheim.

Asked about the adequacy of the amount committed by the European Union for adaptation aid to developing countries (the EU said it would give 2.4 billion euros annually starting from 2010), Solheim avoided comment.

But he did specify that Norway has opted to make the adaptation aid entirely separate from humanitarian aid already pledged. The European Commission has left it up to the member states to decide whether the aid for adaptation will be made additionally from humanitarian aid or will be subtracted from it.

Norway is also committed to investing in avoiding deforestation worldwide. The country has pledged one billion dollars through 2015 to Brazil through the Amazon Fund.

And it has also committed 30 million euros to preventing deforestation in Guyana, in the framework of a bilateral agreement.

“This money is aid. We are for a strong REDD (United Nations Collaborative Programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries) to emerge from CoP15, but these commitments are aid,” Solheim stressed.

Asked whether the cap and trade system currently promoted worldwide serves the interests of corporations more than an environmental goal, the minister rejected the idea.

He explained that a cap and trade system established through the Clean Air Act in the United States had been instrumental in controlling acid rain through significantly reducing SO2 (sulphur dioxide) emissions. Between 1990 and 2007, SO2 emissions were reduced by 50 percent in the US.

“Of course a global carbon tax would be the best option,” said Solheim, “but this is politically difficult.”

He concluded that cap and trade must be mixed with numerous other instruments in order to reduce emissions up to the levels called for by scientists and to provide support for the most vulnerable.

* Rajiv Fernando contributed to this story.

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