Ragna Sørlundsengen, sustainability specialist at St1, points out that there are numerous factors at play when measuring the value of nature. - There is no automatic guarantee that all untouched nature has high value.
The wind power debate has clearly demonstrated that there is significant disagreement in this country when it comes to the development of renewable energy production – and which land areas should be used. One of the key concepts that arises in this context is natural value.
- We have previously seen examples of development in vulnerable areas and certain types of nature that have been unfortunate. In the past, we were not always good at determining which areas had high value. However, there is now a more systematic approach to this, Sørlundsengen begins.
We have previously seen examples of development in vulnerable areas and certain types of nature that have been unfortunate. In the past, we were not always good at identifying areas of high value. However, there is now a more systematic approach to this.
To get to the core of the matter - Sørlundsengen relies on relevant research that suggests the calculation of natural value should be based on several factors.
– These are often referred to as ecosystem services and are divided into four groups. They indicate the value of various things that nature provides us - such as biodiversity, fuel (wood), air purification, carbon storage in wetlands, or cultural activities. The state of nature, whether it is untouched or not, is also a factor, she explains.
The natural value of an area is assessed based on how high it scores on the various ecosystem services.
– For example, untouched nature consisting mostly of rocks, as is the case with Davvi, can provide a high value for one service and score low on others. The key here is that one cannot simply isolate the aspect they prefer the most. The different parameters should be considered in relation to each other.
The St1 woman highlights that these ecosystem services are actively used in land use interventions in places like the United Kingdom..
– They have also started developing specific methods in impact assessments to calculate these values. We don't have that on a large scale here yet, but we want clear guidelines on how to do this – to see if we have the necessary data or need to conduct further assessments, says Sørlundsengen.
She emphasizes, however, that ecosystem services are not the only way to assess the natural value.
– In general, we hope that more or less all parties can agree on how to calculate natural value. That we have a single framework to be used in development, whether it's an industrial building in Oslo or a power line in North Troms. This will facilitate constructive discussions.
The importance of having a good model for calculating natural value should not be underestimated. Norway has, through the Montreal agreement, committed to protecting 30 percent of land-based nature by 2030. At the same time, there is a massive need for the development of renewable energy production in the coming years. In simpler terms, there is a reliance on a well-functioning system to make the best choices.
– Today 17.6 percent of Norway's land area is protected. Most of it consists of high mountain areas that score low on many key ecosystem services, Sørlundsengen explains.
She considers this problematic because the Montreal Agreement emphasizes that countries must protect in a way that enhances nature's ability to counteract climate change and preserve biodiversity without compromising human rights.
If we protect areas that only have high value in one or two fields, such as culture and condition, we risk filling the conservation quota with nature that contributes little to the goal of the agreement.
But where does the Davvi wind farm actually rank in terms of natural value?
– Based on the impact assessments, Davvi has a low value on most parameters. The area has limited biodiversity, among other factors, and is far from settlements and recreational areas, Sørlundsengen begins.
– So we see that it has a score in terms of cultural values. Some reindeer herders may argue that the area has particularly high value, and others may not, but you also have to consider how the project scores on the other factors in addition, she continues.
The St1 representative also points to impact assessments that indicate that the wind farm will have a moderate to low impact on reindeer husbandry.
– We respect the rights of reindeer herders, which means that the nature in the area has a special value. The question is how, and to what extent, cultural and recreational value should be balanced against all the other parameters, concludes Ragna Sørlundsengen.