Nordic environmental audit proposed

Working group focuses on reducing growth, impacts of energy, supporting renewables

A working group set up by the Nordic Council has recommended a joint environmental audit for the five Nordic countries instead of the separate national audits carried out at present. The Norwegian Society for the Conservation of Nature (Norges Naturvernforbund) has welcomed the proposal.

The all-party group, led by Norwegian Labour MP Erik Dalheim, is to deliver its final report to the Nordic Council at its meeting in Helsinki at the end of November. Since March this year, the group has been considering the following issues:

How shall renewable energy sources be exploited to maximum environmental advantage? Can cooperative Nordic efforts reduce rates of growth of energy consumption? What would be the consequences of such joint Nordic political decisions on energy markets and regulations?

In a statement, the group declares that "working from current regulations and energy production levels," it is clear that the joint audit would "contribute to reducing growth in total energy production". The working group hopes to persuade Nordic negotiators to put the proposal to the international meeting of signatories to the UN climate convention at Kyoto in December.

The group also argues that a joint audit would strengthen the case for renewable energy by highlighting the environmentally destructive effects of anti-competitive market mechanisms that favour traditional energy suppliers. Ultimately, "this could make it more expensive to use coal while lowering the cost of windpower and bioenergy," Erik Dalheim told Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten.

The newspaper predicts that the proposal will also speed up efforts to harmonise energy taxes, particularly on electricity, in the Nordic region. The Nordic Council has set up a separate panel on this issue with the aim of working out a system of tax incentives and penalties favouring cleaner technologies.

Norway would suffer under such a system, as its electricity prices - which are relatively low in Nordic terms - would have to rise considerably to come in to line with Danish and Swedish tariffs.

Terje Kronen, general secretary of Norges Naturvernforbund, told Aftenposten: "This is something we have fought for years. A regional audit will enable us to see Nordic energy production in a broad perspective: wind power production in Denmark, for example, might be tied in with hydropower in Norway."

He also noted that a regional audit would close a number of loopholes, such as the one through which Danish coal-fired electricity imported by Norway simply "vanishes".

Follow Up:
Nordic Council, tel: +45 33 96 02 00.

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