Norway sets new climate target

Norway, the largest oil producer in Western Europe, on Thursday announced it intended to cut 1990 emissions levels "at least 55 percent" by 2030, in line with EU goals.

Pictured is a glacier in Norway.
Norway has brought its climate goals in line with EU targets. Pictured is a glacier in Norway. Photo by Maksim Shutov on Unsplash

Just days before the COP27 climate conference in Egypt, the announcement is in line with commitments made by the centre-left coalition government when it
took power in 2021.

While not a member of the European Union, the Scandinavian country’s new target brings Oslo in line with the overall target set by the 27-member bloc. Oslo also announced that it would present climate plans each year going forward.

Norway’s climate target was previously to reduce emissions by between 50 and 55 percent of 1990 levels.

“This sends a strong signal to other countries, and we hope that more will up their targets,” Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said on Thursday.

Store’s Labour Party and its ally, the Centre Party, rule out dismantling the oil sector, which is a major part of the national economy.

The war in Ukraine and the reduction in Russian exports have seen Norway become the leading gas supplier to Britain and the European Union.

“The demand for fossil fuel energy will fall and renewable energy production must increase. This has to go hand in hand,” Store told a news

He stressed that the planet would still need oil in years to come and argued it was “not a bad thing that some of it comes from the Norwegian
continental shelf, which has the lowest emissions.”

Last week, the United Nations said current country climate pledges leave the world on track to heat by as much as 2.6 degrees Celsius this century,
warning that emissions must fall 45 percent this decade to limit disastrous global warming.

A day earlier, the UN’s climate change agency had said governments were doing “nowhere near” enough to keep global heating to 1.5C and would steer a
world already wracked by increasing floods, heatwaves and storms towards “catastrophic” warming.

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Why cross-country flights are more popular than trains in Norway 

Figures have revealed that routes between Oslo and Bergen and the capital and Trondheim are among the most flown in Europe, with around 20 departures a day in each direction. So why are Norwegians opting for flights over the train? 

Why cross-country flights are more popular than trains in Norway 

Flights between Oslo and Bergen and Trondheim and Oslo were the fourth and fifth busiest air routes in Europe last year, according to European data agency Eurostat. 

Around 44 daily flights between Oslo and Trondheim and 38 between Bergen and the capital took off last year, contributing to some 222,622 domestic flights in total in 2022. 

Research from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) found that Norwegians’ flying habits contributed to twice as many C02 emissions as Swedish, German or French air passengers.

Flights between Oslo, Bergen and Trondheim account for around 20 percent of emissions caused by domestic flights within Norway, public broadcaster NRK reports.

So why are Norwegians choosing to fly between cities rather than taking the train or other means of transport? 

Climate researcher Helene Muri from NTNU said that several factors explain why domestic flights are far more popular than trains. 

First of all, she told NRK that the cost of taking a long-distance train between cities in Europe is cheaper and faster than it is in Norway. 

“The average Norwegian often has enough to travel with to be able to take a weekend trip and take these perhaps unnecessary flights. Trains in Norway are quite expensive, so when flying is cheaper and faster, you understand that people choose it,” she told NRK. 

For example, a flight between Oslo and Bergen can be completed in under an hour, while the train between Bergen and Oslo can take six to eight hours to complete. Trains to Trondheim from the capital take a similar time too. 

In some cases, such as when travelling to Tromsø from further south in Norway, a flight may be the most practical option due to Norway’s geography. 

“For example, Oslo-Tromsø is a stretch where it is not easy to find alternative means of transport,” Muri explained. 

Another reason why planes may be more attractive than trains is due to the sheer number of flights compared to trains. Recently the number of trains between Oslo and Bergen has been cut due to a lack of demand, with there typically being around four departures per day. 

In comparison, there are flight departures just over once an hour between the two biggest cities in Norway, meaning finding a flight to fit around one’s plans and itinerary is much easier. 

The popularity of flying between cities in Norway comes despite train travel contributing 12.2 grams of C02 per passenger per kilometre to the 236 grams of C02 emitted by planes per traveller and kilometre

Muri said that to entice more travellers onto trains, journey speeds and onboard amenities would need to be improved. 

“The time it takes to take a train between cities in Norway has actually increased. It takes longer now than it did before. It’s a bit remarkable and takes things in a bit of a wrong direction,” she said. 

“Increased capacity, increased speed and the availability of stable broadband in the trains are measures that can help shift traffic from the air onto the railway network,” she added.