Norway Plans to Buy Greenhouse Gas Quotas for Public Officials Flying Abroad

Norway plans to buy greenhouse gas quotas for public officials when they fly aboard to help curb global warming, Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said.

In his annual News Year's Day speech Monday evening, Stoltenberg said the proposal would probably make the Norwegian government the first in the world to buy such quotas for international air travel.

"In parts of the country, we have had the warmest autumn and winter months in 100 years," the prime minister said in his speech. "This is a warming we must take seriously. We fear that something is wrong with the weather."

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Under the Kyoto climate treaty that went into force last February, 35 industrialized nations committed themselves to reducing or limiting output of six gases, chiefly carbon dioxide, a byproduct of burning coal and oil products. International air travel is not covered by the Kyoto agreement.

Within the European Union, and associated countries like nonmember Norway, carbon dioxide emissions can be bought and sold by companies or countries. If Norway buys emissions quotas for government employees' flights, countries or companies selling the quota would have to cut their emissions by the same amount.

"We want to set an example," said Stoltenberg. "If only a few do this, it means little. If many join in, it can mean a great deal."

The E.U. last month said aircraft emissions make up 3 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions, higher than any other industry.

Stoltenberg's proposal drew mixed reactions. The environmental group Friends of the Earth Norway said it hoped the speech represented a new era for Norwegian environmental polices.

However, Norway is the world's third-largest oil exporter, and a major natural gas exporter. This year, the government approved the construction of new natural gas power plants, despite their heavy emissions of carbon dioxide.

"Stoltenberg presents himself as a visionary when it comes to climate change, but he has a giant credibility problem when he talks about natural gas power plants as 'Norway's lunar landing,'" Dagfinn Hoeybraaten, leader of the opposition Christian Democratic Party, told the Norwegian news agency NTB.

NTB estimated the cost of buying emission quotas for public employees on foreign flights would be roughly $400,000 per year.

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