Norwegian foreign minister Jonas Gahr Støre. Photo: Torgrim Rath Olsen

International environmental cooperation

03/09/2009 // Norway’s success in reaching its national environmental targets is dependent on international environmental cooperation. Norway is exposed to long-range pollution, as persistent organic pollutants (POPS), radioactivity and acid rain originating in activities elsewhere are transported here by winds and ocean currents. Moreover, Norway has a vested interest in helping to reduce the extensive environmental problems affecting the geographically adjacent area of Northwest Russia.

International environmental cooperation is also essential to the ability to devise good solutions to the global environmental challenges facing countries everywhere in the form of climate change, loss of biological diversity and dispersal of hazardous chemicals into the natural environment. Norway plays a prominent role in efforts to establish legally binding international cooperation on environmental issues.  

Environmental and resource management policies comprise key components of Norwegian foreign and development cooperation policy. Satisfactory environmental conditions help to promote stability and security. A healthy, diverse environment is necessary in order to alleviate poverty and achieve sustainable development to the benefit of all the peoples of the world.

Priority areas
Norway gives priority to international cooperation in the following areas:

  • climate change
  • hazardous chemicals
  • biological diversity

Climate change
Anthropogenic climate change is one of the most serious environmental challenges facing the world today. The global climate is already shifting, and according to the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the warming trend that has been observed during the past 50 years may largely be ascribed to human activity. A rise in the global mean temperature may affect precipitation patterns and wind systems, shift climate zones and raise the level of the oceans. Changes of this magnitude could have a tremendous impact on natural ecosystems and human society alike. Today we know enough about human-caused climate change to take action; the longer we wait, the greater will be the burdens on and costs to future generations.

Norway is working actively towards stabilising greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that will prevent dangerous, anthropogenic interference with the climate systems.

Norway will comply with its commitments under the Kyoto Protocol to limit greenhouse gas emissions in the period from 2008-2012 to less than one per cent above the 1990 level. Norway is also actively seeking the implementation of a more comprehensive and ambitious global climate regime for the period after 2012.

Read more about Norway’s climate-related priorities here.


Hazardous chemicals
The consumption of chemicals has increased exponentially in the past 50 years, and chemical substances are now an integral part of all types of products and production processes. Chemicals are being spread over great distances, both as a result of trade in goods and as a result of winds and ocean currents. Norway is particularly vulnerable in this context because the winds and currents convey emissions north, turning the northern areas into a geographical “dumping ground” for hazardous chemicals from the entire northern hemisphere. International regulation of hazardous chemicals has become considerably more stringent in recent years, largely due to the entry into force of several agreements. Norway is working actively to increase efforts at the global level. In this context, a broad-based global strategy for dealing with the large-scale environmental challenges associated with hazardous chemicals is currently being developed under the auspices of the United Nation’s Environmental Programme (UNEP).

Biological diversity
In the wake of the World Conference on Sustainable Development held in Rio in 1992, Norway has given priority to promoting the development of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, the largest assessment of the world’s ecosystems ever carried out, was commissioned among others by the CBD. Norway has assumed a special responsibility within the Nordic Council of Ministers for follow-up of this assessment in international environmental cooperation and development cooperation policy. Great importance is attached to incorporating the CBD’s objectives and work programmes, as well as the provisions of Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, into national activities. The goal adopted by the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg to achieve a significant reduction in the current rate of biodiversity loss by 2010 will be achieved on the basis of cooperation between all involved sectors of society.

Environmental cooperation with the EU
During the past 30 years the EU has implemented a comprehensive environmental policy. This policy is based on the view that pollution is a transboundary phenomenon, and that supranational regulations are required to cope with shared environmental problems in various areas. 

The EEA Agreement incorporates wide-ranging cooperation in the environmental sector. In accordance with the provisions of the Agreement, Norway is required to comply with most of the comprehensive environmental legislation issued by the EU. Common European regulations have been introduced in a wide variety of areas, including chemicals, air, waste and water. The EEA Agreement does not encompass issues relating to natural resource management or the preservation of cultural heritage.

The new EEA financial mechanisms comprise an important aspect of Norway’s environmental cooperation with the EU. Over the past five years, Norway has contributed NOK 1.9 billion annually in financial support – primarily to the 10 new member states. This funding has been aimed at reducing social and economic disparities in the enlarged EU, and the environmental sphere has been an area of major focus.

UNEP – United Nations Environmental Programme
Norway plays a major role in activities to strengthen global environmental efforts. One of the measures for achieving this involves the strengthening of UNEP as the world’s global environmental forum.  

Norway is concentrating its efforts on the following four key measures:

  • Enhancing the scientific capacity of UNEP to enable the organisation to better assess the impact of environmental problems involving several areas.
  • Enhancing UNEP’s capacity-building measures and technology transfer to developing countries.
  • Enhancing member states’ ownership of the decisions taken by the UNEP Governing Council by introducing universal membership into the UNEP Committee of Permanent Representatives.
  • Increasing funding for UNEP’s activities.

Trade and the environment
International agreements outside the environmental sphere pose challenges to the application of national environmental instruments. This is particularly evident in the context of the trade liberalisation negotiations under the World Trade Organization (WTO), the negotiation of free trade agreements between EFTA and third party countries and initiatives relating to the EU-EEA Single Market.

Assessment of environmental considerations is required under all relevant areas of negotiation in the current round of discussions in the WTO. At the same time, the relationship between trade and the environment is a separate topic of negotiation. It is the view of the Norwegian Government that the WTO and multilateral environmental agreements are to be viewed as equal-ranked international instruments designed to fulfil the needs of the international community, and that no hierarchical relationship between agreements can be said to exist. It is also important that negotiations lead to solutions designed to provide the flexibility needed to ensure effective implementation of environmental policy instruments.

Environmental concerns integrated into development cooperation
One of the primary objectives of Norwegian development cooperation policy is to promote sound management of the global environment and biological diversity. Development cooperation measures are to contribute to improving the state of the environment in partner countries and to preventing global environmental degradation.

Priority areas for Norwegian development cooperation and cooperation with developing countries include:

  • sustainable production systems
  • conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity
  • pollution reduction
  • preservation of the cultural heritage

The Ministry of the Environment has signed individual environmental agreements with its sister institutions in Indonesia, South Africa and China.

Indonesia is one of the most biologically diverse countries in the world, with vast tracts of rainforest that play a vital role in the global climate. The country’s natural resources are under mounting pressure, and there are many challenges associated with the implementation of natural resource management schemes.

The objective of this regional cooperation is to generate broadly endorsed plans for environmental and natural resource management employing the ecosystem approach specified under the CBD.

South Africa
Environmental cooperation with South Africa was initiated in 1996. Long-term cooperation on environmental policy is of crucial importance in light of the country’s policy role in the region as well as its status among the developing countries. Cooperation is maintained through political dialogues and joint projects. The third cooperation agreement was signed in December 2005, and approximately NOK 10 million will be allocated annually to this programme. Key aspects include cooperation on support for the implementation of global environmental conventions to enable South Africa to meet its commitments and take on an active role in further developing these conventions. Other important elements of the programme include promoting cooperation between Norwegian and South African institutions, enhancing regional cooperation and increasing the participation of NGOs.

In coming years, the following areas will be given special focus:

  • pollution reduction
  • protection of biological diversity
  • good governance in the environmental sector

Environmental cooperation with China was initiated in 1995-96. The goals for this bilateral cooperation include establishing an ongoing dialogue on vital environmental policy challenges and supporting China’s follow-up of international commitments. In future, the focus will be on climate and dispersal of environmentally hazardous substances as well as biodiversity issues and water and air pollution. Cooperation encompasses institution and capacity-building measures as well as collaboration with Innovation Norway to promote Norwegian environmental technology. A new position as environmental counsellor has been established at the embassy in Beijing, with responsibility for following up bilateral environmental cooperation between Norway and China as well as for environment-targeted development cooperation.

Source: Ministry of the Environment   |   Share on your network   |   print