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Goals for land use in European countries – something to learn for Norway?

MORE (Menon Center for Environmental and Resource Economics) has, on behalf of the Ministry of Climate and Environment (KLD), mapped selected European countries’ objectives for land use and which instruments and measures have been initiated to fulfill the goals. We have also considered whether the area targets appear to have an effect. The report can be read here.
The reason for this assignment is that land use targets can be considered introduced in Norway, as an instrument for raising awareness / knowledge about deforestation. The idea is that a target for land use will be able to increase awareness of land management in the climate context and the consequences of land use changes, as well as contribute to a more comprehensive and efficient land use.

Our review shows that targets for land use and land use changes have been introduced in several European countries. In the discussion of the EU’s goal of zero net reduction by 2050, several objectives are mentioned that can be achieved by area targets, such as the importance of well-functioning ecosystems in pristine areas, food production, aesthetic values, recreational opportunities and carbon storage. In addition, it is mentioned that one of the reasons for demolition, namely urban sprawl, often leads to increased greenhouse gas emissions due to increased transport needs.
We have looked at six countries that have quantitative targets for land use, and have also obtained information about our nearest neighboring countries: Denmark, Sweden and Finland. Area targets are used as a means of achieving different overall goals in the different countries.
Many of the countries have fairly general goals of avoiding decommissioning, avoiding urban sprawl, etc., and most appear to be focusing on existing planning systems to meet their goals. It can be difficult both to enforce and to measure the fulfillment of such general area targets. It is therefore important to understand what you want to achieve by introducing an area target. If the area target is introduced as an instrument for achieving a whole range of goals, it can have unintended consequences and be ineffective. If the goal is to reduce deforestation, area targets should be compared with other available means to achieve that goal in terms of governance efficiency and cost-effectiveness. One must also ensure that it is possible to measure the development of land use, and thus assess the achievement of the target.
For many of the countries in Europe, the most important thing is to avoid urban sprawl and save areas for purposes other than settlement. An interesting approach that is little discussed in Norway so far is the goal that brownfields will be used for new development of housing, industry and possibly infrastructure measures. One cleans up and upgrades past sites that may need clean-up of contaminated grounds or other measures while saving other pristine areas. This is also interesting as areas that can be used for compensation measures in cases where one cannot avoid intervention in nature.
Most countries seem to rely largely on legal regulations in the form of plan laws and regulations, but there are also some proposals for economic instruments. An interesting system that uses economic instruments is Germany’s proposed tradeable planning permits. Another “quota system” has so far already been adopted in Norway for agricultural land where a total area target has been set for the country as a whole, and then this area has been allocated to the different counties. The relationship between national land targets (“quota”) and how this should be followed up and distributed regionally and locally seems to be a crucial point. A system of transferable allowances is more flexible than fixed quotas per regional unit and it has some benefits.
Another economic instrument proposed in several public inquiries in Norway (including the Green Tax Commission and NOU 2013: 10 on the value of ecosystem services) is another approach to economic instruments to reduce the use of nature – or to take society’s costs into account. to apply nature to various development measures. However, one is dependent on finding an expression of society’s costs for different habitats. With a quota system this information is not needed, but the challenge will be to find the “right” level of development permits.
The review indicates that, without dedicated instruments related to the area target, it is difficult to achieve the goal. That said, there is much to suggest that more attention should be paid to the use and reduction of area ahead than has been the case until now.
The contact person for the investigation is a partner Kristin Magnussen.

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