Welcome to Norway and the historically important city of Trondheim and to this final conference on the EEA and Norway Grants for the Climate and Environment programmes.
I am looking forward to hear more about your achievements and results in the area of Climate and Environment, which is an area of high priority for the Norwegian Government.
Cooperation with our European neighbours is high on the government’s political agenda. Norway and the EU share common values and have common interests in a number of political areas, in economic politics, in social politics, in security politics and, not least, in climate and environment politics.
Norway and EU are closely interconnected. More positive economic outlook in EU this year compared to previous years are good news also for Norway. These days ministers of climate and environment from Norway and EU are working together at the climate summit in Bonn for an as ambitious as possible progress and follow-up of the Paris agreement on climate change.
The foundation for Norway’s cooperation with the EU is the EEA-agreement. For more than 20 years the EEA-agreements has contributed to a strengthening of the relationship between Norway and the EU in a number of areas. It is crucial for the access of Norwegian goods and services on the European market. It is also important on a number of other areas, like education and working possibilities, research and innovation, and not least, on climate and environment. The EEA grants is an important part of the EEA agreement, both for Norway and for our European partners.
The EEA Grants is an important tool to stimulate fruitful co-operation and partnerships between our countries, as a supplement to other EU funds (Structural Funds and Investment Funds).
In the Climate and Environment field, it is important that these grants enable us to follow up successfully on international agreements and conventions.
Co-operation under the Climate and Environment Programmes should also contribute to reduce social and economic disparities in Europe and strengthen our bilateral ties.
Not at least, it is valuable when we make practical steps forward in the project co-operation between our countries and institutions.
Projects that produce tangible results to benefit of people in recipient countries will be important in relation to the overall goals.
We are eager to achieve high-quality outcomes and results, that are to the benefit of both parties and that contributes to capacity building.
Pilot projects – if successful – may be scaled up through national programmes and thus have significant impact on policy development.
Some projects may also be crucial for follow-up of EU directives and lead to early implementation of such directives.
Through the EEA and Norway Grants, the donor countries want to strengthen socio-economic development and increase bilateral co-operation.
This is important in a situation with political stress in Europe and challenges in relation to extreme events, migration and to Brexit.
In the future, there is a risk that we might see even greater challenges in this field. We must therefore take early actions and try to prepare as best as we can to avoid future costs.
Under the EEA and Norway Grants, we all have a focus on expected outcomes and results from the programmes and projects. Let there be no doubt.
I am aware that you are in the middle of a reporting period and that the final input is due in January next year and that you are working on your final reports.
Therefore, the results might only be preliminary, but nevertheless we should already now have a good indication of how we are able to reach the expected outcomes and results.
There is an increasing interest for the outcomes from these public funds in media and by the public. We should therefore be able to communicate the results in an effective way.
I am aware that important results have been achieved, through the EEA and Norway Grants, in many countries and let me mention some examples:
It is inspiring to hear that Romania, in the pollution area, has invested in digital monitoring system for water quality and capacity to analyze hazardous substances. These investments will allow Romania to follow-up on European chemicals regulations through REACH and the Water Framework Directive. This is a great step forward!
Many of your countries are rich in biodiversity and it is a high priority that you build capacity to manage your natural resources in the best possible way.
It is interesting to hear about the network and projects on biodiversity to follow-up on the EU biodiversity strategy and the Convention on Biodiversity. Valuation of ecosystem services is a tool to integrate environmental considerations in the decision making process. In this new field, we can learn from each other experiences.
I am aware that interesting results have been achieved in the biodiversity field in the Cezch Republic, Bulgaria and Romania.
With regard to climate change, Minister Vidar Helgesen visited a project in Bratislava in a school in Karlova Ves in 2016. He was inspired by the knowledge of the high school students and their local projects and experiences from climate adaption efforts.
Similar projects have been carried out in 60 blue schools in the climate adaption field, building capacity among young people. If we get the young generation involved, we are better equipped for the future!
Monitoring of air pollution in Polish cities has been established successfully under EEA and Norway Grants. In Romania a tool for surveillance of the national air quality has been developed.
When you are able to analyze the pollution situation in major cities and indicate potential consequences human beings and biological life – then we talk about results that matters!
It is also important that we communicate as best as we can the results achieved, and that we feed such result into our web sites, social media and to journalists.
I am sure that your co-operation have brought results that deserves more attention. It is now our common challenge to shed light on such important achievements of your hard work over several years.
With regard to the future, we will continue our co-operation in areas of high priority of the beneficiary states.
However, we also should have a stronger focus on climate change mitigation to follow-up on the Paris Agreement in the next period. This is urgent and crucial!
We may continue some co-operation in the climate adaptation field, when priority is high in recipient country, but we should definitely see a shift in focus from the last period to the next.
Furthermore, we will welcome additional efforts in areas of biodiversity and hazardous substances.
Waste management and circular economy is a challenge in many of your countries. Here it is possible to see new opportunities under the Green Innovation Program in combination with the Environment Program.
In the next period, it should be more simple to work across programmes and to achieve synergies. This also provides more room for flexibility, which is promising.
Let me also sum up;
We should keep up our good work,
Provide the best results,
Communicate well and
Continue in areas of high priority.
Here in Trondheim, the NTNU University, SINTEF and the scientific community, are all known for their innovative solutions for a green and low-carbon future. I hope that the visit to SINTEF may also provide inspiration to your future work.
I wish you the best for a successful conference!
Thank you for the attention.