Indicators of sustainable development, 2014

Sustainable development - future challenges


The set of sustainable development indicators for Norway shows a country with few critical problems, but with challenges concerning greenhouse gas emissions, hazardous substances and future public finances. Moreover, it is particularly important for sustainability that we manage our human resources effectively.

The Norwegian strategy for sustainable development emphasises how Norway can contribute to sustainable development globally, and how it can achieve such development at a national level. Sustainable development is a complex issue. Many factors need to be taken into consideration and examined in relation to each other when assessing whether the current path can be maintained or if it should be adjusted. A national set of indicators; 17 in total, has been developed in order to throw light on the development in the economy, environment and social conditions.

Indicators of sustainable development, 2014

National income per capita is increasing

Net national income per capita has almost doubled in Norway since 1985. The estimate per capita for 2013 is NOK 513 000. Non-renewable natural resources; mainly oil and gas, are very important sources of income for Norway. Such resources made up 5 per cent of the national income on average in the period 1986-1990, increasing to 17 per cent in the period 2011-2013. However, the contribution from the human capital is by far the most important. In the period 2011-2013, human capital made up 69 per cent of the net national income. Supply of labour and competence are the most important sources of future income, even in the “oil country” Norway.

Minor changes in greenhouse gas emissions in 2013

The Norwegian greenhouse gas emissions showed only minor changes from 2012 to 2013. According to preliminary figures, the greenhouse gas emissions from Norwegian territory totalled 52.8 million tonnes in 2013. The preliminary emission figures show that the amount of acidifying emissions, given in acid equivalents, dropped by 1.5 per cent from 2012 to 2013. This was due to a reduction in the emissions of nitrogen oxides (NO X ).

Lower energy intensity

Total energy consumption increased by about 1 per cent from 2012 to 2013, primarily as a consequence of the increased use of energy as a raw material in the manufacturing industry. GDP increased almost at the same rate. The energy use per unit GDP; a measure of the energy intensity, therefore remained practically unchanged. However, in the period from 1976, the energy intensity has been considerably reduced. According to the energy balance, renewable energy made up 43.5 per cent of total energy consumption in 2012. In 1976, energy from renewable sources accounted for 40 per cent of total energy consumption, which means that the share has not changed much in 36 years. This renewable share is considerably lower than the 65 per cent share calculated for 2012 using the EU’s method of calculation. This is primarily due to the fact that the EU’s method of calculation does not include energy use in the oil and gas industry and energy used as a raw material.

More cod, but less herring and saithe

The spawning stock of Northeast Arctic cod in 2014 is estimated at over 2 million tonnes. This is a historically high level. The stocks of Norwegian spring-spawning herring and Northeast Arctic saithe have shown decreasing trends in recent years. The stock of North Sea cod is still considered to be at a very low level.

Varying signals on ecosystems

Ecosystem indices – measures of biological diversity – calculated for five main Norwegian terrestrial ecosystems including fresh water in 2013 show only small changes compared to the corresponding calculations in 2010. The indices for the ecosystems mires-spring-floodplain and open lowland have shown a negative development compared to the situation in 1990, while the coastal and open sea ecosystems have shown a positive development in this period.

Life expectancy is increasing

From 2012 to 2013, life expectancy at birth increased by 0.2 years for both sexes. New born girls can expect to live for 83.6 years, while boys can expect to reach 79.7 years. Women can still expect to live longer than men, but the gender gap is decreasing. We are living longer, but increased life expectancy also represents a future challenge in relation to pensions and health and welfare services. Public sector expenditure is expected to be higher than tax revenues from about 2025. In the national budget for 2014, the need to tighten public finances is estimated at 3.6 per cent of the gross domestic product.

Low income inequality and high level of education

The income disparities in the population are not significantly larger than they were 30 years ago, and the income inequality in Norway is quite low in an international context. The Gini coefficient  increased from 0.21 in 1986 to 0.25 in 2012. The share of the population with a high level of education (tertiary) has increased by more than 20 percentage points over the last 40 years. In 2012, almost 30 per cent of the population over 16 years had a tertiary education.

Share of the population receiving disability pension decreased

Almost 14 per cent of the population aged between 18 and 66 years receive a disability pension or work assessment allowance. This share is high, but in an international context, Norway also has a high labour force participation rate and low unemployment rate. The share of the population receiving a disability pension decreased from 9.5 per cent in 2012 to 9.3 per cent in 2013. This share has decreased by 1.1 percentage points over the last ten years.

Government’s development aid target was reached

In 2013, the Norwegian development aid amounted to NOK 32.8 billion, which corresponds to 1.07 per cent of gross national income (GNI). The national target of 1 per cent of GNI was achieved. In 2013, only the three Scandinavian countries, the United Kingdom and Luxembourg achieved the UN target of 0.7 per cent of GDP. Norwegian imports from developing countries amounted to NOK 96.7 billion in 2013; an increase of almost 5 per cent from 2012. Imports from the least developed countries totalled NOK 5.2 billion.

Sustainable development – a global challenge

The estimated world population growth from today’s level of 7 billion to over 9 billion in 2050, coupled with the need to improve welfare conditions for large population groups, means major challenges will be faced in relation to resource use, energy supply, water management, food production, environmental pressures, economic growth and social development. The OECD’s report ”Environmental Outlook to 2050 - Consequences of Inaction” emphasises the need for “a deep cultural shift towards “greener” and more innovative sources of growth, and more sustainable consumption patterns”. The UN’s outcome document of the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development - ”The future we want" - emphasises that “poverty eradication is the greatest global challenge facing the world today and an indispensable requirement for sustainable development”. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment report from 2005 observes that “over the past 50 years, humans have changed ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than in any comparable period of time in human history”.

Thus, the challenges are many and the need for effective measures is great.

An overview of the development in each of the sustainable development indicators is available in the key figures on Statistics Norway’s web pages on this topic (in Norwegian only) .