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Climate challenges for Copenhagen 2009

In 2009 Copenhagen will be the seat of a huge new United Nation's conference focussing on combating global climate change: The so-called second Kyoto-conference.

Nordic prime-ministers present in Oslo. From left: Fredrik Reinfeldt (Sweden), Jens Stoltenberg (Norway), Matti Vanhanen (Finland) and Geir H. Haarde (Iceland).

Nordic prime-ministers present in Oslo. From left: Fredrik Reinfeldt (Sweden), Jens Stoltenberg (Norway), Matti Vanhanen (Finland) and Geir H. Haarde (Iceland).

The Kyoto-agreement has validity only until 2012. Therefore decisions made in Copenhagen will be of utmost importance for the future. In 2009 Sweden will hold the chair of the European Union. As such then 2009 could really provide a good opportunity to demonstrate the positions of the Nordic countries in the global climate debate. This point was underlined by the Nordic prime ministers during their Oslo Nordic Council meeting in October this year.

At present, Denmark, Finland and Sweden all are committed to the climate goals of the EU. That is to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases by 20% by 2020 as compared to 1990-levels. For Norway the goal is a 10% reduction during 2008-2012 as compared to 1990 and a total of 30 % by 2050. In addition Norway also aims to be 'CO2 neutral' by 2050. By 2050 the aim for Iceland is to see a reduction in emissions of 50-75 %.

The overall Kyoto-goal is to avoid global temperature increase above +2 oC by 2050. To achieve this, the world's total greenhouse emission must at least be reduced by 50 % compared to the 1990-level, according to the recommendations from the intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Globalisation has the latest year been a central issue in respect of official Nordic political cooperation. In June this year the Nordic Council of Ministers (NCM) published Möjligheternas Norden – svar på globaliseringens utmaninger (Nordic oppturnites – an answer to the challenges of globalisation (unofficial translation).The NCM basically argues here that the issues of globalisation must be solved multilaterally. They also underline that the Nordic countries have already set very ambitious goals to reduce greenhouse gases, and to achieve sustainable and secure supplies of energy.

– For the time being it is important that the Nordic countries work towards the supply of clean and secure energy, comments Halldór Ásgrímsson, the Secretary General of the NCM, adding: – Each country has her own focus; wind-power for Denmark, thermo-power for Iceland, storage of CO2 for Norway and bio-energy for Finland and Sweden.

During the meeting in Oslo the Nordic prime-ministers were asked about the perspectives for nuclear-based electricity in the joint Nordic electricity market. They categorically stated that no changes were planned: – We will continue as present, where the issue of nuclear power is regarded as an individual policy-arena for each of the Nordic countries, explained Finland's prime-minister Matti Vanhanen. Finland is the largest producer of nuclear-based electricity in the Nordic area. Prime-minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, representing Sweden and the other Nordic nuclear-based power-producer, chose however not to comment on the question.
The Nordic prime-ministers did not lay out any new goals for greenhouse gas emissions. They did however send the clear message that the world must act in a united manner to reduce the speed of climatic change: – The EU and the Nordic countries can do very little on their own. We must get the USA and the large countries like China, India and Brazil to join forces. That is really what we should work towards before Copenhagen, the prime-ministers underlined.

This ambition is also highlighted in Nordic policy-notes on globalisation. One of the most interesting suggestions here is to arrange a Nordic (Davos-style) Forum on Globalisation. The first meeting should be hosted by Sweden and should take place early in 2008. Important to the proposal here is the desire to invite key international actors from the governments of the major powers and from the management of the most powerful international institutions. No further information on this was however forthcoming at the current time of writing. – It is the Swedish authorities who are doing all the planning, noted the NCMs Halldór Ásgrímsson, who also mentioned that the NCM has a potential budget of 60 MDKK for work on Nordic globalisation for 2008. – It is a lot of money, but I think it is needed, he suggested.

The importance of the work on reducing global climate change is illustrated by the fact that the IPCC will, together with Al Gore, receive this years Nobel Peace Prize. The IPCC has three working groups. Professor Eystein Jansen is the Director of the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research at the University of Bergen and one of the twenty coordinators of the first of these groups. He is also the editor of chapter 6 on Paleoclimate in the IPCC's assessment report for 2007.

– Thus far (2007) the EU has managed to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 1% while the goal is to reach a 20% emissions reduction level by 2020. Do you think this target remains attainable?

- Yes, if strong measures are applied. It has to cost to be a emiter of CO2. Therefore I think trading emission quotas cannot be the main way forward. Sweden has already cut its emissions to below the 1990-level and I think that others can also achieve this. I also think that the strategy cannot be to wait for new technology. The urgency of the problem says we must start now, and that implies we have to use existing technology. Of particular importance is to capture and store CO2 from power-stations based on fossil fuels. This would benefit Europe as well as many other countries. For Norway, the challenge is to reduce emissions in connection with the oil- and gas-based production of energy in the North Sea.

– But we are talking about a global problem? – Definitely, as such then the way forward will depend on the US and in particular on whether they agree to accept new international obligations in respect of climate change. We just have to hope that this will change with the new president who will take over from George Bush, concludes Eystein Jansen adding: – And of course that Australia and other large emitters will join our ranks and commit themselves to the goals that will be decided upon in Copenhagen in 2009.

By Odd Iglebaek