SMART PATHS - Smart paths and costly detours towards a sustainable low-emission society

Norway can choose different routes to the low-emission society. SMART PATHS aims to distinguish smart paths from costly detours. Smart climate strategies avoid lock-in in fossil fuel-dependent technologies and behaviour and are robust to changes in global surroundings. A smart climate strategy also includes careful surveillance. For that purpose, we will develop transformation indicators for monitoring and facilitating adjustments of the path to a low-emission society.

Project details

Project manager
Taran Fæhn
Project participants

A transdisciplinary science-policy forum (The Forum) will be actively involved throughout the project period. It consists of experts from the business, government and research sectors with complementary competence to the project team. By now, the participants of The Forum are:

  • Ole Løfsnes (Norsk industri)
  • Janne Stene (Stortinget)
  • Kjetil Lund (Statkraft)
  • Are Lindegaard (Miljødirektoratet)
  • Marte Sollie (Finansdepartementet)
  • Jon B. Skjærseth (Fridjof Nansens Institutt)
  • Caroline D. Ditlev-Simonsen (BI)
  • Helena Cabal (CIEMAT)
  • Henrik Gade (Miljødirektoratet)
  • Per Arild Garnåsjordet (SSB)
  • Endre Tvinnerheim (UNI Research)

The project is part of the centre CREE – Centre for Research on Environmentally-friendly Energy.


Research Council of Norway (RCN) - The Klimaforsk Programme

Project term
Project status
Research field

About the Project

The primary objective of the project SMART PATHS is to analyse how medium-term national climate strategies should be crafted to take us on a smart path to the low-emission society. A main hypothesis is that a climate strategy that sets short-run emissions targets on the way can easily end up on a detour: the society can be lead to pick only low-hanging fruits void of further transformation potential. Investment and consumption behaviour will not change sufficiently and the result can be a lock-in in fossil-fuel-reliant patterns for many decades.

SMART PATHS will assess the Norwegian short ad long term climate policies. The approach will be theoretical and numerical and encompass different scientific disciplines: economics, technology and psychology. The aim is to integrate knowledge from the disciplines in a consistent, dynamic framework that accounts for many types of responses to climate policy instruments: technological, changes in industry and consumption patterns, and changes in social norms and preferences; the latter virtually unexamined in large-scale models. Besides the risk of locking the society into using emission-intensive technologies, we will study the risk of lock-in due to behavioural inertia. Examples can be habits that are difficult to break or lack of coordination that hampers action. The modelling will be based on findings from empirical and experimental studies.

The project will check the robustness of alternative national climate strategies to changes in global surroundings, not least to what extent they rely on the climate policies of the EU. We will do that by analysing Norwegian climate strategy options within different global regimes. The regimes will be selected based on systematic building of qualitative and quantitative scenarios.

We argue that that monitoring the pathway towards the low-emission society should be part of a climate strategy. We will propose indicators that not only capture emissions abatement, but also reflect the transformation taking place in terms of technological, institutional and behavioural processes towards the low-emission society.



February 26 2018: Workshop in The Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate (NVE):

Two researchers from the Smart Paths project, Cathrine Hagem and Taran Fæhn, presented projections by means of SSB’s general equilibrium models.

January 24-26 2018 in Paris: OECD and GTAP Workshop on long-term scenarios:

Three researchers from the Smart Paths project, Pernille Seljom from IFE and Orvika Rosnes and Taran Fæhn from SSB, attended the workshop devoted to technical issues when projecting global futures by means of models and model linking. The workshop gathered information about around 25 different global CGE models and around 60 experts from general equilibrium modelling and analysis. As facilitator of the session on Energy and Environment Modelling, Fæhn talked about the state-of-the-art modelling, technical challenges and upcoming topics in the energy-emissions-economy nexus. The outcome of the workshop will be compiled in a special issue or report.

November 28 2017 (in Larvik): Workshop in The Ministry of Climate and Environment: 

The workshop addressed the governmental reporting and assessment tasks in the wake of the Norwegian Climate Law. Steffen Kalbekken from CICERO and Taran Fæhn from SSB and project leader of Smart Paths were invited speakers. Fæhn talked about adequate reporting and knowledge building to support the low-emissions goals in the Climate Law in her presentation «Klimaloven, rapportering og teknisk beregningsutvalg for klima».  

June 16 2017: Seminar in The Norwegian Water Resources and Energy Directorate:

Taran Fæhn talked about the role of the Norwegian climate law for the transformation to the low-emission society.

June 12-13 2017: Scenario workshop:

The workshop gathered the research team and SMART PATHS’ associated Forum of experts from business, government and research. Besides kicking off the project, the aim was to work out a small set of scenarios for how the global development can look like for the next 3-4 decades. Per Espen Stoknes, Director of BI Center for Green Growth, is experienced in the explorative scenario methodology and led us through the intensive workshop. It resulted in specific descriptions of four different possible and plausible pathways for the external environment around Norway’s national climate strategies, including technology trends, global markets, geopolitical conditions etc. The results of the scenario process will be edited and printed in a summary report from the workshop in early autumn. It will form a fundament for later scenario simulations.

May 16 2017: Seminar on the Norwegian climate strateg:

Together with Fridjof Nansens Institute and Energy Norway, CREE arranged a seminar shedding light on two important dimensions of the Norwegian climate strategy. Taran Fæhn, project leader of SMART PATHS, presented views on the interplay between the climate law and the Norwegian strategy to link the climate policies to that of the EU. In the subsequent panel debate, among others, Ole Løfsnes from SMART PATHS’ Forum discussed the consequences of the climate law for green growth. Read more about the seminar here.

February 10 2017: Kick-off meeting in the Research Council of Norway:

The seminar “Transformation to the low-emission society” aimed at introducing and discussing the new research projects that received grants from the KLIMAFORSK Programme from 2017. Taran Fæhn presented SMART PATHS.

February 9 2017: Omstilt 2017 – tenke det, ønske det, ville det:

Several of the participants in SMART PATHS attended the conference about transformation arranged by the Research Council of Norway, participated. Per Espen Stoknes from the research team talked about. See the program of the conference here



Fæhn, T., and Stoknes, P. E. (2018): “Significant and plausible futures: Global surroundings of Norway’s climate strategies”. (Reports 2018/02). Statistics Norway and CREE WP 10/2017

This report describes the approach and results of a scenario workshop with the scope of spanning out a handful of alternative qualitative scenarios for the forthcoming global development. The specified question that the scenarios set out to shed light on is: what future external drivers are particularly decisive for the design and performance of national climate strategies in the period of 2020-2050? The report describes four, internally consistent, qualitative narratives of the global social, economic, technological, and political future and, in particular, of what they would mean for the external surroundings of the small, open Norwegian economy and its climate strategy ahead.

Fæhn, T. (2017, 01. oktober). Vil tettere klimasamarbeid med EU hemme eller fremme grønn omstilling? (Will closer climate coordination with the EU obstruct or support Norwegian green transformation).  Energi og klima.

July 7 2017: In a chronicle (in Norwegian) in the Norwegian newspaper Morgenbladet Taran Fæhn commented on the credibility of the Norwegian climate strategy and the need for new indicators on the transformation process.

May 16 2017: Report from a seminar on two important dimensions of the Norwegian climate strategy, where experts from SMART PATHS were among the discussants.