Norway has set Europe an eco exampleUnited Kingdom
The rest of Europe should take note of Norway's ecological mindset and investment in environmentally friendly technologies.
In December 2009, Oslo received the distinction of the third greenest city in Europe (after Copenhagen and Stockholm). Always aware of the wealth of their fisheries, water and fossil fuels, the Norwegians were among the first Europeans to feel concerned by the protection of the environment. Beyond the postcards of mountains plunging into the sea, fjords and spectacular northern lights stands a modern country that strives to protect its natural heritage.
To achieve its goal of becoming CO2 neutral by 2030, Norway bets on sustainable development and environmental laws (the last one being that buildings over 500m2 must cover 60% of their using renewable sources). Revenues generated by the carbon tax ($50 per ton) can finance some innovative technologies such as carbon dioxide capture and storage, and promote renewable energy such as osmotic energy.
In Europe, few countries have dared to introduce such a tax. François Fillon, the French prime minister, postponed the carbon tax with the excuse that it could not be done at a European level. This measure is, however, estimated by some politicians and environmentalists as essential to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. If the tax has worried Norwegian oil companies, the measure has pushed them to invest heavily in new technologies in the hope of reducing their CO2 emissions.
Furthermore, their overall production has increased.
On an international scale, Norway binds with many partners in order to get technical exchanges and financial assistance. Research centres in Trondheim are already collaborating extensively with leading groups in Europe, the US, China and Japan on climate technology. Unni Steinsmo, president of Sintef, says that "the development of technology in this field will be one of Norway's most important contributions in the field of climate improvement".
European countries have to follow the example of Norway and rapidly increase their investment in research and in new technologies. Developing a clean, safe and effective energy, promoting the use of more environmentally friendly energy, improving the management of natural resources and reducing environmental damages caused by the industry, utilities and society: these are all essential investments in the future of Europe.
This might prove difficult, as Norway has a unique relationship with nature that explains its enthusiasm. Ecological habits are integrated into everyday life, in education as well as in the common rules of "living together"; recycling is taught from childhood, cycling is extremely widespread, and children learn about plants and animals from a very young age: ecology and education are constantly linked to one other.
Norwegians use more traditional materials than most countries, such as the fir tree. They even try to preserve their special relationship with nature through urban design; Oslo, Bergen, Trondheim: all these cities fit to the coastline or in low mountains and are equipped with low-polluting public transport and bicycles for hire. Car use is discouraged by a toll ring around the city.
"Cities in nature, and not nature in the city" is the motto of city planners in Norway. The new Oslo opera house illustrates Norwegian architectural skills: it combines aesthetics with low-energy performance. A myriad projects are similarly shaped: the first ecological prison in the world (Bastøy), the Kvernhuset College in Fredrikstad, and the Green Student Park in Oslo (Pilestredet Park) being prime examples. In addition to concerns about air and water pollution, Norwegian architectural design has also emphasised integration with the natural landscape (see the church of Mortensrud).
Today, living in Norway means enjoying a comfortable city life as well as living in an ecosystem-centred value system. Norway not only recognise the risks of climate change, but also tries to limit it. Through ecology, Norwegian society expresses its deeply egalitarian and humanitarian ideas. The government has turned this state of mind into the policy of sustainable development ("meeting the needs of present generations without compromising the ability of future generations to meet theirs"), an idea that encompasses almost every sectors of society. Europe should take note.
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