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Norway’s journey towards a low carbon future

Last week the Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg invited Norwegian businesses, NGOs, politicians and organization to a “climate dugnad” in Oslo City Hall.  (I realize there is no good English translation for the Norwegian word “dugnad” – the closest you get is voluntary communal work). In essence, the Prime Minister called key decision makers and takers to convene over a very specific and important task – Over the next decades the world needs to transition towards a society where economic growth is decoupled from the use of fossil energy. What are the key benefits for Norway given such a transition? How can the benefits be realized? And what should the key priorities be over the next years?

Supported by eight of her Ministers, the PM sat the tone from the very start. Norway shall move towards a low carbon society, and we need to speed up the transition. The efforts will be good for businesses competing in the global economy, it will create new industry positions, green jobs and it will definitely mitigate climate change and improve the local environment in Norwegian cities.

 The speeches were followed by a good and creative discussion with the audience.

 A ten point journey to low carbon future

 In my mind the journey towards a low carbon future holds a lot of opportunities – for business and society alike. Based on my experience from the green growth and sustainability realms, I believe the following elements could reinforce and strengthen the path Ms Solberg and Norway now are embarking on:

  • We need clear political will and leadership stating and communication aspirations, ambitions, targets and roadmaps for where we are moving. The willingness expressed last week was an excellent start.  


  • We must become better at communicating the inspiring narrative that already exist, and which is so compelling, for a low carbon future. This communication is important if we are to engage and inspire everybody in society, all sectors – young and old and shall be supported by good examples, solutions and practises that can inspire others to action.


  • We must realize that “knowledge is the new oil” Norway should step up the investments in R&D domestically, strengthen the collaboration with international R&D networks and stimulate, facilitate and support businesses to invest more in sustainability, technology development and demonstration projects.


  • We should leverage on our natural benefits and existing clusters & competences. Hydropower, maritime, marine, offshore industries & technology, climate and material science are some of the strong positions we should use to fuel the transition.


  • We must accelerate the transition with all the competence, wealth and know how that we have built up in our oil and gas sector. This is unique, world leading competences that must gradually be transferred to other industries e.g. power transmission and distribution, offshore wind, sustainable shipping, offshore seafood farming, and floating wind farms. The Government Pension Fund Global’s mandate should be reshaped to support the transition, i.e. increase investments in renewables and gradually divest in fossil energy.


  • We need new and reinforced Government incentive programs. New technology is always more expensive then matured solutions. The government need to set clear and stable incentive programs in place to stimulate the transition. A good example in Norway is the uptake of electrical cars supported by a stable and reliable governmental incentive program.


  • We need more green focus in public procurement. In Norway alone, public procurement amounts to more than 400 billion NOK annually. To increase the green content in public procurement would be a powerful way to stimulate the industry to develop new technology. A good example is the world first electrical ferry to be set in service next year. The public buildings should aim to be a leading green sector.


  • We need to support Europe with energy storage. Our hydropower is excellent battery for an European energy system with an increasing renewable mix. We must strengthen and smarten the grid and extend the amount of interconnectors from Norway to Europe.


  • We need more sustainable transportation systems. Moving transportation of people and goods from roads to rails and to sea is a measure that gives multiple benefits in the form of better air quality in the cities, less traffic congestion and a clear climate benefit. Green and effective cities will be the core driver for a sustainable development in an increasingly urbanised world.


  • We need to focus much more on energy efficiency and awareness building. The cheapest energy is the energy we don’t use and the Norwegian society has been blessed with cheap electricity for generations. We need to build more awareness into next generation and let schools and university focus on a low carbon energy efficient future.  


Sustainable business is good business

Rt. Hon, Lord Deben was invited to share some remarks during the meeting. He emphasised a fact that is well known to all of us – the burning of fossil fuels leads to the release of CO2 to the atmosphere, which in turn leads to global warming and climate change. This affects us all; but more than anyone it affects the most vulnerable. His message was this; the link between the burning of fossil fuel and climate change is as clear as the link between smoking and cancer. The debate is over. Insight and knowledge is accompanied by a responsibility to act. The main global action, and responsibility, is to decarbonize our energy systems – now.

The good news is that with an increasing global population, an increasing middle class accompanied by increasing and infinite consumption on a finite planet, the actions we need to take is very much the same, regardless of whether or not you believe that climate change is a reality.

From a business and technology perspective I am an optimist, not least because of all the opportunities a low carbon future holds. With close collaboration between Government, academia, NGOs and business I am confident that green technology will produce black numbers. Because after all; sustainable business is good business.

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