The Norwegian government aims to be a driving force in international work on environmental protection and in the fight against poverty. We live in a globalized world facing great challenges with regard to the environment, poverty and living standards. The world today faces critical global environmental challenges such as climatic change, loss of biological diversity and dispersion of hazardous chemicals. In addition, the world is facing great challenges in the way of scarce resources such as water, energy and food.
The development and use of environmental technology will be most important in order to meet these challenges. Through reduced use of energy and resources, reduced use of hazardous chemicals and increased recycling of waste, environmental technology contributes both to improving the environment and to economic development.
Environmental technology has already brought about a number of positive results. In the battle against acid rain, the development of catalytic converters for automobile emissions has been extremely important. This has reduced nitrogen emissions from automobiles by 70 percent in Norway. Another example is the development and installation of "seawater scrubbers", which has led to a 90-percent reduction in acidic emissions from the aluminium industry. Such success stories illustrate that it pays to invest in more environmentally friendly technology. It should also be mentioned that the energy utilization of waste is taking the place of landfill deposition. Incineration facilities utilize on the average some 70 percent of the energy in waste. The amount of waste for incineration has doubled in 10 years, while the waste deposited at landfills has been reduced by 30 percent. This implies reduced climate gas emissions, both as a result of reduced emissions from landfills and because the energy generated may replace energy generated from fossil fuels.
An example of an environmental technology that has not yet brought about the very best results, but which will be extremely important in the years to come, is CO2 handling. The Norwegian government is highly committed to the development of such technology. Our country has excellent conditions for CO2 deposition in offshore underground structures, and we have already acquired important experience in depositing CO2 in the Utsira formation on the Sleipner field. The Norwegian government emphasizes the significance of international collaboration in the realization of such solutions. Norwegian actors are also participating actively in international technology and research collaborations on CO2 handling.
Environmental objectives and policy instruments introduced by the government are important for the development of environmental technology. A good example is our waste policy. Concrete environmental objectives, strict emissions standards and the introduction of environmental taxes have served as strong incentives to develop and put to use new recycling technologies. The government will work towards ambitious environmental objectives and strong emissions reductions. At the same time, new technologies are providing new business opportunities for the industry. One example is the Norwegian firm Tomra, which produces and operates cost-effective systems for bottle return. Advanced technology has been developed to identify and sort the various bottles. This illustrates the importance of an ambitious and active environment policy, whilst underlining the important role that trade and industry have to play with regard to finding practical solutions.
We must meet our future welfare needs with reduced consumption of resources, energy and hazardous chemicals. A key element for meeting these challenges both nationally and internationally is the development of environmental technology. The Norwegian government wants to position Norway as a pioneer nation in this area. We will create the necessary conditions for this through an ambitious environmental policy, as well as through better collaboration between the public sector, the private sector and the civil society.
The Norwegian Minister of the Environment