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Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way
WEB MAGAZINE - November 2018

COP24 Nordic Pavilion: Share your climate solutions with the world

“Most importantly, we must acknowledge and understand the transition we have to make, from fossil energy to renewables,” says Tine Sundtoft, former Norwegian Minister of Climate and the Environment. Earlier this year, Sundtoft produced the report The Nordic countries in the green transition – more than just neighbours, offering twelve strategic recommendations for Nordic leadership on climate and the environment.

“The major change must take place within energy and transport,” she says. “We must plan our cities in a way that reduces the need for transport, and choose the most sustainable solutions – walking or biking when possible, and using public transport or electric cars powered by renewables.”

The report’s main recommendation is that Nordic countries should make a major contribution to achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement and Agenda 2030. Sundtoft says that it is essential to initiate a constructive dialogue and demonstrate that it is possible to lead a good life and create value and growth in the low-carbon society.

“Nordic countries base their climate efforts on trust, close dialogue between the private and public sectors, and academia that seizes the opportunity to lead the way. Looking across the region, we already have most of the solutions, we just need audacious policies to speed up implementation.”

“Looking across the region, we already have most of the solutions, we just need audacious policies to speed up implementation.”

Tine Sundtoft
Former Norwegian Minister of Climate and the Environment

Much more to be done

Swedish Anders Wijkman is Chairman of the Governing Board of the EU’s main climate innovation initiative, Climate-KIC, and Honorary President of the Club of Rome. According to him, the Nordic countries can certainly point to areas in which they have made progress on the climate, including wind energy in Denmark, efficient use of biomass, and electrification of transport in Norway. However, he does not hide his impression that Nordic and European climate efforts still leave a lot to be desired.

“When it comes to climate change, biodiversity and pollution, we still have a long way to go. In the Nordic countries, we might be able to say that we’ve reduced territorial carbon emissions by 20-25 per cent since the 1990s, but if we include consumption, international aviation and shipping, emissions haven’t come down. Nordic dialogue on climate change could and should be more active and aligned, pushing for stronger European objectives.”

The dawning of a circular bioeconomy

Overconsumption is one of the key challenges of climate change, especially in the wealthier parts of the world. The Nordic Council of Ministers’ Generation 2030 programme places special emphasis on SDG12, sustainable production and consumption patterns. The Council of Ministers recently published an analysis of the progress towards achieving this goal, as well as the way forward for the region.

“Developing an economy based on sustainable use of natural resources, a circular bioeconomy, will be essential to decoupling economic growth and resource use,” says Dr Christian Patermann, one of Europe’s leading bioeconomy experts and former Director at the EU Commission. The Nordic countries have joined forces to develop a joint bioeconomy programme and action plan on how to use their complementing capacities and bioresources to develop such an economy in the region.

“Biological resources and their extensive use offer renewability, circularity and a certain element of climate neutrality, and are therefore ideal candidates for successfully combating global climate change,” explains Patermann. “The Nordic Region’s strategic approach to the circular bioeconomy will undoubtedly be beneficial. It ensures visibility and provides certainty and predictability for investors. Furthermore, formulating such a strategy forces you to set priorities and focus your efforts.

“Importantly, the Nordic Bioeconomy Programme is accompanied by an action plan, which can be verified and accounted for,” he continues. “What distinguishes the Nordic Region is the ability to demonstrate the bioeconomy in practice, showcasing new technologies and biobased products. The world needs these showcases, because the sustainable and circular bioeconomy is extremely complex in nature.”

“Developing an economy based on sustainable use of natural resources, a circular bioeconomy, will be essential to decoupling economic growth and resource use.”

Dr Christian Patermann
Bioeconomy expert and former Director at the EU Commission

Carbon emissions from buildings and construction

On 5 December 2018, the Nordic Pavilion will be setting the scene for a dialogue on construction and buildings, which account for a large share of global emissions.

In recent years, Nordic countries have focused their efforts on energy efficiency, energy retrofitting, recycling of building materials, and new methods in urban planning and construction. One good example is the use of wood in construction as a sustainable alternative to steel and cement, even in high-rise buildings. During the Nordic Construction Day, the Nordic Council of Ministers will be spotlighting emissions from the construction process.

“Between 50 and 60 per cent of the carbon footprint of a building derives from construction,” says Wijkman, “So the EU’s building directives, as well as the national legislation in the Nordic countries, should focus on reducing the emissions from the construction phase.”

Outdated economic models

According to Wijkman, it is time to move away from economic models based on increasing consumption, taking its toll on the planet’s resources, and short-term profit maximisation.

“Our economic models were developed when the global population was 1.5 billion and the resource pool and the planet’s capacity to absorb residue materials seemed infinite,” he explains. “Now we’re in an entirely different situation, almost eight billion people. So, the question is, why are we still guided by an outdated economic model that sees pollution, ecosystem decline and climate change as external effects, as if it were something marginal? It’s not. These are the major challenges.”


Photo 1: Mia Smeds / Nordforsk

Photo 2: Karsten Wurth / Unsplash

Photo 3: Matic Kosinc / Unsplash