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Freight Services in Norway – The Impact of the Green Agenda

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There is a paradox at the heart of the Norway economy. It is a paradox that the government is wrestling with and that has a significant impact on the freight forwarding industry in Norway. The paradox is that Norway is one of the countries most committed to taking action to combat climate change – and is also one of the countries most directly responsible for causing it.

The mainstay of Norway’s economy has long been its gas and petroleum exports. In other words, it is dependent on international freight export of products responsible for hydrocarbon pollution.

But ironically for a country that exports oil, Norway is passionate about green issues and is one of the global leaders on the climate change agenda. 99% of Norway’s own electricity comes from hydroelectric plants and it was one of the very first countries to adopt a carbon tax. The government has pledged to make the country carbon neutral by 2030, bringing that target date forward from its initial date of 2050. This is an issue that is making shipping companies and others in the freight services industry sit up and pay close attention as actions arising to deliver this strategy arelikely to lead to significant changes to the transport infrastructure in Norway, petrol taxes and other related issues that have a direct impact on a freight company or a shipping company.

Of course, when Norway says it wants to be carbon neutral, it is referring only to its domestic usage. As the world’s fourth largest exporter of oil and third largest exporter of gas, when these exports from Norway are burned overseas, they will be making a huge number of carbon emissions.

As the government and opinion formers in Norway wrestle with this paradox, there are mounting calls for a reduction in hydrocarbon exports and a call to limit new exploration for oil and gas. This would also have a significant effect on Norway’s shipping companies, as they are so heavily dependent on international freight transport of hydrocarbons. Although the current government has said it has no plans to cut back on oil and gas exploration, it is highly sensitive to the importance of the green debate in Norway. Indeed, in 2000, the government actually collapsed due to a row about global warming.So the freight transport industry is well aware that the issues are emotive ones and that they are here to stay.

Because the green lobby is so strong and green issues are so fiercely debated and seen to be so important by the Norwegian population, there have been a number of initiatives designed to reduce carbon emissions. This includes promotion of biomass for power for homes and businesses, instead of fossil fuels. They also include high taxes on petrol and cars and the development of an extensive public transport system, with effective train systems between the cities and efficient ferry networks along the coast and along the waterways.

Although there has been a proliferation of cycle tracks, there has meanwhile been less investment in roads as the government focuses on reducing road traffic. In fact, the government has even promised to double funding for public transport for cities that pledge to get more cars off the roads. They are also setting up an agency to investigate ways to reduce carbon emissions from transport. The impact on the freight services industry has been that it has had to adapt swiftly to the many changes brought about to reduce carbon emissions. For example, more use is now made of the public transport networks by the freight services sector and there is less use of freight forwarding by road as a proportion of the whole than in many other countries.

The government has even carried out detailed studies into whether bridges or tunnels to cross fjords are better for the environment and have now made it official policy to favour bridges as cars and lorries use less petrol on them than they do if they had to descend into and climb out of a tunnel. On mountains, however, tunnnels have been deemed to be more environmentally friendly than roads, as in relation to mountains, tunnels lead to less petrol consumption compared to roads.

Overall, the impact of the green agenda on the freight services industry in Norway is positive. The freight transport industry benefits from the intense government scrutiny of the country’s transport network and transport related issues. The drive is towards greater efficiency and of course freight forwarding businesses and shipping companies stand to benefit from these.

One thing is certain – as the government in Norway continue to be at the leading edge in exploring new technologies such as electric transport, shipping companies and the freight transport sector will be the first to exploit the new developments, becoming still more streamlined and efficient than they already are.

Sharon Lynd Kidman, LLM, MSocSc, DBA. Research focus on the management of human interactions across organizational and medico-legal issues. Her recent work also deals with the management of stakeholder reactions towards legal matters. She previously worked for an international bank in New York, Singapore and Hong Kong.

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