Nordic Green to Scale shows potential of scaling up Nordic low-carbon solutions

Scale-up of fifteen Nordic climate solutions can reduce global emissions by 4Gt

Editor’s note: Article updated after COP22
A global scale-up of fifteen selected Nordic low-carbon solutions, all of which have proven their value in the Nordic countries, could reduce emissions by 4 gigatons every year by 2030 – equivalent to the total annual emissions from the EU. Nordic Green to Scale has analysed the potential of scaling up Nordic climate solutions, including district heating, onshore wind power, biofuels in transport, as well as methods to increase energy efficiency in buildings, better manage manure in agriculture, and reduce methane in oil and gas production.

By Páll Tómas Finnsson

Proven solutions applied to their maximum scale
These Nordic solutions were selected for the Nordic Green to Scale project based on their technological feasibility, scalability, cost, and proven emissions savings. The selection represents a balanced mix of low-carbon solutions from different sectors across all five Nordic countries: energy, transport, industry, buildings and households, and agriculture and forests.

“We’ve explored the potential of using these already applied and proven solutions and applying them to their maximum scale on an international level,” says Janne Peljo, Leading Specialist at Sitra – the Finnish Innovation Fund, which conducted the analysis in co-operation with research institutions in all five Nordic countries and the Nordic Council of Ministers. The results were presented at the joint Nordic Pavilion at COP22, New Nordic Climate Solutions, on 16 November.

The potential for emissions reductions is largest in a global scale-up of combined heat and power production (CHP). If other countries were to follow the example of Finland and Denmark in applying CHP technologies, it would reduce global emissions by 1,171 MtCO2 per year. Matching Denmark’s use of onshore wind power would lead to an annual reduction of 695 MtCO2, while cutting nitrous-oxide emissions in manure management in the agricultural sector could abate around 478 MtCO2 per year. Increasing energy efficiency in buildings, matching the achievements of Sweden, represents a potential to reduce emissions by 430 MtCO2.

“The total net cost of scaling up all fifteen solutions would be just over USD 10 billion by 2030,” says Senior Advisor Oras Tynkkynen, who led the Nordic Green to Scale analysis on behalf of Sitra. “This is of course a large amount, but it’s equal to just nine days of global fossil-fuel subsidies today.”

“The good news is that many of the solutions we need already exist, and that they are both feasible and cost-efficient,” said Annika Rosing, Head of the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Department of Growth and Climate. “The Nordic Green to Scale project enables countries to identify existing solutions to meet and even go beyond their current climate ambitions, and at the same time enjoy the many co-benefits, such as improved air quality and health as well as green jobs.”

“No excuse for not taking action today”
“The main concerns decision makers have about taking climate action is that it’s either too difficult or too expensive to rapidly reduce emissions,” says Tynkkynen. “Our objective is to highlight what the Nordic countries have already achieved in terms of introducing low-carbon solutions and what other countries can learn from their successes.”

Considerable CO2 abatement potential was also identified in the use of biofuels in transport, approximately 423 MtCO2 per year, and in bioenergy for heating. If Canada, Russia and Mongolia used as much bioenergy for heating as Finland currently does, it would reduce emissions by 193 MtCO2 per years.

Other solutions analysed by Nordic Green to Scale were offshore wind power and the application of geothermal power, CCS in oil and gas production and low-carbon energy in the pulp and paper industry, as well as green transport solutions, i.e. the successful policies to promote electric vehicles in Norway and the effects of the high proportion of cycling in Danish cities. The project also analysed the use of residential heat pumps in Sweden and the abatement potential related to reforestation and land restoration efforts in Iceland.

The objective of the Nordic Green to Scale analysis has been to provide a more specific regional perspective on the potentials to cut emissions by analysing solutions from an area with similar climate conditions, economic conditions and overall framework for societal actions.

“As much as we appreciate the importance of innovation and new technology, there’s no excuse for not taking action today and introducing the solutions that are already available,” Tynkkynen says.

In his speech at the release event, Kimmo Tiilikainen, Minister of Agriculture and Environment in Finland, stated that more action is needed everywhere in the world to achieve the targets of the Paris Agreement.

“The Paris Agreement was the result of years of hard work by thousands of people who believe that we can only fight climate change by working together. Now it’s time for action. The global and Nordic Green to Scale studies clearly show that there are plenty of existing low-carbon solutions that we can use to reduce emissions. Not tomorrow, not in the far future, but already today.”

Careful assessment of the global scalability
“These fifteen Nordic solutions vary a lot with regards to scalability and CO2 abatement potential,” says Jan Ivar Korsbakken, Senior Researcher in Climate Economics at CICERO. “We’ve been very careful when assessing the applicability of these Nordic solutions in other areas, as we’re wealthier and more technologically advanced than many countries. A Norwegian solution might therefore not be applicable in a developing country like Malawi.”

To illustrate the importance of evaluating the scale-up potential of each solution, Korsbakken mentions two Nordic success stories as an example: electric heat pumps and the integration of wind energy. The global emissions reduction potential of heat pumps, he explains, is only around 64 MtCO2 per year. The reason is that they compete with other low-carbon technologies, and also that emissions savings are quite small in countries where electricity is produced from fossil fuels. While addressing the global scalability of wind energy, the analysts encountered a somewhat different issue:

“Denmark is a small country with a large wind power potential relative to its surface area. If Canada and Australia were to capture a similar share of their technical potential, they would produce more electricity from wind than they actually consume in total. Therefore, we’ve scaled down the potential in a few countries to ensure a realistic outcome.”

Approach based on the global Green to Scale project
The Nordic Green to Scale project applies the same method as the highly successful global Green to Scale project, run in 2015 in collaboration with eleven international research partners by Sitra, This project identified the potential to reduce current global emissions by a quarter by 2030, simply by scaling up seventeen proven and successful climate solutions from all around the world.

The global Green to Scale project estimated that emissions could, as a median figure, be reduced by 12 gigatons by applying the seventeen solutions. These range from improved energy efficiency in industry, transport and buildings to low-carbon agriculture, reduced methane emissions from oil and gas production, and renewable energy, including wind, affordable off-grid solar power, and bioenergy for heating.

Read more about the Nordic Green to Scale analysis at www.greentoscale.net/nordic

“As much as we appreciate the importance of innovation and new technology, there’s no excuse for not taking action today and introducing the solutions that are already available”

Senior Advisor Oras Tynkkynen, who led the Nordic Green to Scale analysis on behalf of Sitra.

The selection represents a balanced mix of low-carbon solutions from different sectors across all five Nordic countries: energy, transport, industry, buildings and households, and agriculture and forests.

“Simply scaling up the solutions addressed by the global and Nordic Green to Scale projects would take us a long way in closing the emissions gap, bringing global emissions down to the levels that are required for meeting the targets of the Paris Agreement.”

Senior Advisor Oras Tynkkynen