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Certificates and global responsibility

The Norwegian green certificate scheme is in the media spotlight. Researchers argue that the scheme is not good for you or your wallet and may even lead to negative environmental consequences. Surely it is relevant to discuss how we can best contribute, and not simply criticise the scheme based on narrowly set system boundaries for our own thoughts and models.

The Brennpunkt programme on the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation (NRK) channel last week was a depressing example of how powerless we seem to be about the climate threat facing the world. The programme clearly showed that we are bound by our immediate, day-to-day challenges and do not want, or cannot manage, to free ourselves from short-term own-benefit considerations when a global problem needs to be resolved.

Certificates and global responsibility: Do we have any reason to be optimistic about our children and grandchildren’s common future?

The programme was entirely linked to a discussion on the benefit and reasonableness of introducing so-called green certificates, which will lead to the subsidised development of renewable electricity.  The programme’s main conclusion was clearly against the entire scheme and was supported by various researchers who, with professorial expertise, stated the necessary objections and supported the programme’s main conclusion, which is that this is not good for you or your wallet and may even lead to negative environmental consequences.

The entire programme was completely out of context. The climate challenges were not mentioned; in just over 15 years, the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will have exceeded the limit that climate researchers agree will lead to an increase of two degrees in the earth’s average temperature. We are very probably in reality well on our way to a temperature increase of 4-6 degrees within a few decades. The fact that the fossil industry on which we base our prosperity is also subsidised was not mentioned. Within the G-20 countries alone, it can be assumed that each tonne of CO2 produced by oil, coal or gas consumption is subsidised by around USD 9. In comparison, climate quotas are currently being traded at around €2 per tonne of CO2. So it is profitable to pollute.

Naturally, wind turbines on a mountain may not be desirable for those who want to make a living from offering so-called untouched, beautiful nature. But is this a particularly relevant system boundary when we are to find the global solutions that climate gas emissions require? Of course, in a global context, the energy consumed by five million people in Norway has very little effect on the development of the greenhouse gas concentration in the atmosphere. However, we are responsible for taking part in the common, global efforts that are necessary in order to turn developments towards a more sustainable future for our children and grandchildren. And it is relevant to discuss how we can best contribute, but not simply to criticise based on narrowly set system boundaries for our own thoughts and models.

The climate issue and solutions are linked to power and the distribution of economic goods between us and the seven billion other citizens of the world, all of whom want to participate in the increase in prosperity.  What the world’s ministries of finance have so far not managed to do is to put a globally applicable cost on greenhouse gas emissions. We are basing our common future on the consumption of subsidised fossil energy and quarrelling strongly about the effect on the individual of crucial measures to resolve global problems. There is not much time left to find the essential new mechanisms for creating a more sustainable future, and in the meantime the few effective global schemes are disintegrating due to countries selling too many carbon credits. Do we have any reason to be optimistic about our children and grandchildren’s common future?

Stein B. Jensen

1 Comments Add your comment
Avatar Mark Trexler says:

I’m not able to listen to the Brennpunkt program, and wanted to note that like any environmental market, green certificate programs can be designed well and they can be designed poorly. Here in the U.S., with green certificates facing no test for “additionality,” many observers question whether the green certificates programs that have been operating for many years are actually having any environmental benefit (by increasing green energy). While some market participants benefit simply from the existence of an environmental market, the environment may not. Hopefully the Norwegian system is designed to have that impact.

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