Norway state of environment report published

Government pushes for higher waste recycling, lower noise pollution, integration action plans

Norway's first annual state of the environment report was released by the government on Friday. The white paper, entitled "government environmental policy and the state of the nation," includes a range of targets for reducing waste, noise pollution and protecting cultural heritage sites.

Publication of the report follows a commitment made in a 1997 white paper on sustainable development (ENDS Daily 11 June 1997). The report is also linked to the government's draft budget for next year (ENDS Daily 5 October).

Specific targets include: a 25% reduction in "noise nuisance" from current levels by 2010, recycling (for re-use or for conversion to energy) of 75% of all waste materials by 2010, and reduction of waste generation to a rate below that of economic growth, a 50% decrease in the rate of loss of "cultural monuments and cultural environments", currently estimated at 1% of the national total per year, by 2008.

Waste disposal and recycling targets are described as "ambitious" and "the first time a government has presented national targets in this area". Recycling of household waste has already increased from 9% in 1992 to 34% in 1998.

The report claims that one-third of all Norwegians currently suffer from excessive noise levels in their homes (primarily from road traffic), and 5% seriously enough to have problems sleeping. The government proposes to increase research into noise problems (NKr2m [euros 242,000] has been allocated in the new budget), and "to participate actively in EU work in this field".

Speaking at the launch of the report, prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik drew attention to the government's aim that "all cabinet ministers must take responsibility for environmental developments," in part through the drawing up of "action plans". Ministries for fisheries, energy, transport and defence had now produced such plans, and four more would follow next year.

Environmentalists' reaction to the report, as to the draft budget before it, has been hostile. In an unusually vehement statement, for example, the Norwegian Society for Nature Conservation (NNV) denounced the government's record on environment as "a fundamental failure in one area after another".

The government, adds the NNV, is "in the process of becoming the worst we have had in a long time. As a nation, Norway is a world champion in verbal conservation. When it comes to action, it has little or nothing to show for itself. Norway signs and ratifies international environmental conventions. But funds for fulfilling national or international obligations never materialise."

Follow Up:
Norwegian environment ministry, tel: +47 22 24 57 18; NNV, tel: +47 22 40 24 00.

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