How well is Norway prepared for ’the new normal’?

CEO Morten Thorsrud, If. Photo: Kilian Munch

In October, If CEO Morten Thorsrud handed over the Extreme Weather Report 2023 to Norway’s Minister of Climate and Environment. Lack of competence in the municipalities is one of the barriers for local extreme weather preparation, according to the report.

For the third time, If, together with the CICERO Center for International Climate Research, published the Extreme Weather Report for Norway. The report is based on a survey of how Norwegian municipalities are doing with their very important climate adaptation work. 

The report came in the wake of several major weather-related incidents in the Nordics during the autumn of 2023, including the extreme weather event that was named ‘Hans’. 

Why does If create this report?

– Both climate scientists and state meteorologists agree that the extreme weather we are seeing is the new normal. It is therefore crucial that Norwegian municipalities speed up their preventive work.

We must help the water find its way to the sea, instead of building new homes in vulnerable places. And we need to update our drainage systems so that they are adequately sized for the future. We must adapt to the forces of nature, rather than fight against them, says Morten Thorsrud, who is CEO of If. 

people at the event.
Photo: Kilian Munch

As the Nordic region’s largest P&C insurance company, If believes that it is natural that we do what we can to speed up the societal work on climate adaptation. As a society, we must stop repairing the same damage over and over again, and instead prioritise preventive measures. Prevention is far more economically useful, and it can save lives. 

– As an insurance company, we naturally have an interest in reducing the cost of claims, which is something that naturally benefits both private and business customers. But the most important thing is to make sure that our customers are safe and that they don’t have to find themselves in difficult situations, says the CEO. 

Competence is the key

The Extreme Weather Report is the result of a survey that is sent out to all of Norway’s 356 municipalities. This year, the response rate reached a new record, which indicates that climate adaptation is higher on the agenda than it was in the past.

Nevertheless, when comparing the results with those from 2020, we see that Norwegian municipalities have not made much progress with climate adaptation since then. This is unfortunate, at a time when extreme weather is increasing in both strength and frequency. 

people studying the report.
Photo: Kilian Munch

“Norwegian municipalities cite several barriers to this work, and If has presented these to the Minister of Climate and Environment. A lack of both personnel and financial resources is a regular problem. And the same is true of the generally poor collaboration across departments in Norwegian municipalities”, explains Andreas Handeland, the project leader for the report. 

– But what surprised us a little was the lack of competence – we believe competence must be in place for this work to be done correctly. The municipalities state that the competence regarding climate adaptation is poor in the municipal council and among local politicians, but that they also lack personnel with the right competence, he continues. 

If’s message to the Minister of Climate and Environment in the report, and widely to the media, is therefore that competence must be increased, and that this will lay the foundation for taking the right preventive measures. 

Main findings: 

  • 1 in 10 municipalities do not work with climate adaptation at all. 
  • In general, the climate adaptation work of Norwegian municipalities is no better than it was in 2020. 
  • Municipalities that have experienced extreme weather incidents, have progressed further in their work. 
  • More municipalities are implementing climate adaptation measures, but fewer evaluate them. 

Stated barriers: 

  • Lack of personnel with the right competence 
  • Lack of time/capacity 
  • Lack of financial resources 
  • Difficult to integrate climate adaptation work across specialist departments 
  • Unclear signals from the municipal councils regarding the prioritizsation of climate adaptation work