Pursuing sustainable development in Norway: The challenge of living up to Brundtland at home

W.M. Lafferty, Jørgen Knudsen, Olav Mosvold Larsen

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21 Citations (Scopus)


With the Norwegian Prime Minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland, as chair of the World Commission on Environment and Development, Norway became an early mover in politics for sustainable development (SD). The pursuit of SD goals has been expressed in several national policy documents, though it was not until 2002 that Norway adopted an explicit National Strategy for Sustainable Development. This was followed up by a National Action Plan for Sustainable Development in 2003. Neither of these initiatives has been actively implemented, and both are now being evaluated and revised by the current red-green coalition government. The article presents and assesses strategic SD initiatives from 1989 to the present day. The major conclusion of the analysis is that the Norwegian SD profile is long on promise and short on delivery, and that one major reason for this is the influence of a booming petroleum economy on distributional politics. An exceptional growth in public revenues due to oil and gas fosters intense political competition over the dispensation of economic and welfare benefits - both between political parties and within governing coalitions - and undermines the political will to pursue the SD agenda. Given the ability to also use the surplus for development assistance, Norway stands forth as an SD frontrunner in international aid, and an SD laggard in sustainable production and consumption at home.
Original languageUndefined
Pages (from-to)177-188
Number of pages12
JournalEuropean Environment
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • METIS-246153
  • Norway
  • sustainable development
  • Policy implementation
  • IR-71476
  • Environmental policy integration
  • Strategy

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