Controversy as Norway's SO2 tax doubles

Government's bid to cut emissions sparks concern for jobs in metals, processing, industries

On the eve of a big rise in Norwegian taxes on sulphur dioxide (SO2), Statistics Norway (SSB) and the Pollution Control Authority (SFT) have reported continuing falls in emissions. Last year's total of less than 29,000 tonnes represents a 45% cut since 1990, according to the SSB. However, a further 24% cut will still be required if Norway is to achieve its obligation under the UN Gothenburg protocol to emit no more than 22,000 tonnes annually by 2010 (ENDS Daily 2 September 1999).

The progress report rounds off a turbulent month during which an announcement in the mid-year revised budget that the 18-month-old SO2 tax was to double - to NKr6 (euros 0.73) per kilogram of SO2 from 1 July - appeared to take many of those concerned by surprise and provoked political uproar.

The tax hike is especially unpopular in the metals and processing industries: smelting plant workers this month staged a symbolic one-hour strike to dramatise their fears of job losses in the light of extra costs totalling up to NKr69,000 per employee per year. Claiming that the new tax would make it uncompetitive, the industry offered to pay the equivalent into a fund for developing and building cleansing equipment. It argued, also in vain, for a voluntary system of tradable quotas similar to that proposed for carbon dioxide (ENDS Daily 17 December 1999).

A spokesperson for the Norwegian energy ministry told ENDS Daily that the tax increase should have come as no surprise. The surcharge on emissions from coal, coke and refineries plus other specific sources was agreed at the beginning of 1999, she said, in accordance with recommendations by Norway's green tax commission.

Follow Up:
Norwegian energy ministry, tel: +47 22 24 60 22; SSB, tel: +47 22 00 44 71; SFT, tel: +47

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