The sustainable development of society
Sustainable development has become a widely used concept in global, national, and local contexts since the presentation of the Brundtland Report in 1987. At present, however, it seems to have lost much of its political impact. In many ways, climate-change issues have replaced the more general focus on ecology, welfare and economy which are the designated ‘pillars’ of sustainable development.
The concept of sustainable development nonetheless remains an overarching policy objective in global, regional and national contexts. Agenda 21
stakes out a specific ‘action plan for sustainable development in the 21st century’, and the UN has followed up the plan with a separate Commission on Sustainable Development. The Commission has a specific mandate to monitor and assess implementation of Agenda 21, and the research programme ProSus has earlier conducted ongoing assessments for Norway
in line with the Commission’s guidelines. The concept has also been directly integrated into both the EU Treaty and the overall developmental strategy of the Nordic Council, and Norway
pursues its own strategy as part of the National Budget.
The reduction of greenhouse gas emissions
Climate change policy targets are determined at both global and national levels. The International Climate Conference in Copenhagen in 2009 will decide on new global targets and the ambition to restrict the average global temperature rise to 2 degrees by 2050. Norway has moreover a national commitment under the Kyoto Protocol to limit greenhouse gas emissions during the period 2008-2012 to no more than 1 per cent of 1990 levels. More recently (2008) the Norwegian Parliament adopted an inter-party climate change ‘compromise’ (Klimaforliket), which aims at an overall reduction in GHG emissions of 9 per cent of 1990 levels by 2012. In addition, the climate change compromise incorporates a target to reduce emissions by at least 30 per cent by 2020 and boldly states that Norway will become carbon neutral by 2030. At present, however, up-dated emission data indicate that greenhouse gas emissions have increased from approximately 50 million tonnes of CO2 equivalents in 1990 to 55 million tonnes in 2007.
The achievement of renewable energy production targets
The Renewables Directive (part of the EU's energy and climate change package) sets out a binding target of increasing the share of renewable energy as a proportion of total energy consumption to 20 per cent, and to 10 per cent of total fuel consumption by 2020. The Renewables Directive was formally adopted on 23 April 2009 and represents an extension of the earlier 2001 Renewables Directive. The new Directive incorporates targets related to electricity, heating/refrigeration and transport. The share of renewable energy as a proportion of total energy consumption is allocated between member countries as separate and binding national targets (Appendix 1 of the Directive). The targets vary according to the conditions prevailing in the respective countries. In addition a binding target of a 10 per cent renewable share has been determined for the transport sector, which applies in all countries. Norway is committed to adhere to the directive as part of the EEA agreement. The Norwegian government is currently negotiating with the EU Commission to reach agreement regarding as to a binding national target for renewable energy consumption.
As a point of departure, the proportion of renewable energy production in Norway is extremely high (90 per cent of electricity is generated by hydro-electric plants). However, the levels of production and consumption of oil and gas remain very high, and represent important factors in terms of the Norwegian economy and job creation. Fossil fuel consumption continues to hold a dominant position in the transport sector. Norway faces therefore considerable challenges with respect to the EU Renewables Directive.
Conflicting targets that arise between the various levels of administration and different sectors in society remain one of the most important political challenges to be overcome if Norway is to achieve its energy and climate-change targets. As an overall goal, sustainable development also constitutes a framework within which conflicting interests must reconciled. For example, the development of renewable energy sources has clear implications for biological diversity. In such cases, conflicts arise between local and global environmental concerns. Environmental and energy concerns must, therefore, be viewed in context and coordinated and with economic and social factors. This is a governance challenge – resolving ‘trade-offs’ – which requires mapping and analysis of the political processes at work within and across the various levels of governance.
Integrated solutions also require an overview and insight into all of the phases involved in specific energy projects; from production, delivery to the distribution grid, distribution itself, and consumption. These phases also involve different segments within the energy sector. The generation of electricity from renewable sources is entirely dependant on grid distribution while, at the same time, investments in the grid require adequate levels of power generation. All organisations involved have the ability to influence the different elements of a development project to different extents and in different ways. Contextual variables also exert constraints on the development of society. The analytic model employed by the research team on Governance and Policy aims to directly integrate such ‘contextual variables’ with the prevailing wisdom of the ‘techno-market approach’ to the development and implementation of policy instruments.