Are Norwegian cities prepared for extreme weather?

A large survey carried out by If P&C Insurance in Norway, together with the CICERO Centre for Climate Research has found that Stavanger is the country’s best climate-adapted municipality.

According to data from If, over the past eight years more than NOK 10 billion has been paid for damages following torrential rains in Norway. Putting this into perspective, there were 19,543 claims between 1990–2000. However, there were 67,009 claims in the following decade­ (2000–2010) relating to water damage caused by heavy rains to buildings. Over the last nine years, there have been 158,298 such claims. This increase is significantly higher than that of water damage in general.

Data tells the story of a changing climate

“We have investigated how well-prepared Norwegian municipalities are for extreme weather, which climate researchers believe will be increasingly common in the coming years. Although many municipalities did well, far too many have not started in this important work,” says Ivar Martinsen, Executive Vice President at If.

Through a comprehensive questionnaire, municipalities across Norway responded with regards to what they are doing to prepare for a wilder and wetter weather climate, which results in an increased amount of damage. The result of this study was gathered into a report: Hvor godt er norske kommuner rustet til å håndtere følgene av klimaendringer (“How well-prepared are Norwegian municipalities to deal with the consequences of climate change”).

Although many municipalities did well, far too many have not started in this important work.

“The survey found that Stavanger is the best municipality overall,” says Senior Scientist Marit Klemetsen.

99 municipalities participated

Working together with the CICERO Center for Climate Research, in collaboration with the IVL Svenska Miljöinstitutet, the survey uncovered how well-equipped Norwegian municipalities really are to deal with the consequences of climate change.

The objective has been to guide and inspire Norwegian municipalities to get started on the increasingly important climate adaptation work, to secure both the municipality’s residents as well as protect business activities.

While Stavanger scored best overall, Nedre­ Eiker was ranked the best among municipalities that had between 20,000 and 50,000 inhabitants. As for medium-sized municipalities, Nord-Odal came in first place, while Sirdal municipality was best among small ­municipalities.

In total, 99 municipalities responded to the survey, reflecting almost 50% of all the inhabitants of Norway.

Extreme weather experience counts

“There is a clear trend in the survey that those municipalities that have been exposed to extreme weather are far more aware about the need for being prepared for extreme weather events in comparison to municipalities that have so far been spared from such incidents,” says ­CICERO Senior Scientist Marit ­Klemetsen. “This means that many municipalities only take action when they are hit, and do not work preventively.”

Ivar Martinsen states, “we believe that the key to safe communities lies with the municipalities. We hope that the answers in this report will inspire those who are not prepared to adapt, so that even more municipalities have started to create plans and develop their preparedness when we complete this survey again next year.”

Climate adaptation measures can range from technical efforts (such as water and drains), to administrative actions (such as guidelines on locations where building permits are issued) and so-called ‘blue-green’ measures (such as green lungs, wetlands and water levels to avoid increased rainfall).

Preparedness demands recources

The report shows that there are significant differences between large and small municipalities, specifically major municipalities have come much further in their climate adaptation efforts.

Municipalities that have fallen short in their work, including several smaller ones, should increasingly seek help and information from central authorities to prepare for extreme weather. Both expertise and advice, as well as resources, are needed for them to be able to safeguard their communities.

“At the same time, municipalities facing similar challenges should also work together to a greater extent,” says Marit Klemetsen.

A total of seven out of ten municipalities in the comprehensive municipal survey state that they have already experienced extreme weather events over the past ten years. The most common extreme weather event is increased rainfall, in fact 70 per cent have been affected by this.

“On the negative side, it is disappointing to see that large municipalities such as Oslo and Bergen have not progressed further in climate adaptation work. One would think that, for example, torrential rain and subsequent costly damages should have led to increased focus on preparedness, but this has not been the case,” says Martinsen.

The study shows that there are 11 municipalities ahead of Oslo, which ranked number 12 in the survey. Meanwhile, the municipality of Bergen came in 13th in the climate report results.

The most common extreme weather event is increased rainfall.

The climate will continue to change

According to another report from CICERO and Western Research in Norway, the country is likely to experience even more heavy rainfall, as well as be impacted by rising sea levels with more landslides and floods expected. In light of these predictions If ­Industrial, together with CICERO, is seeking to raise awareness on the needs and challenges Norwegian municipalities will face in the future.

In the end, four out of ten municipalities achieved such a low overall rating in the assessment, that this may indicate they have only just begun the climate adaptation work.

As Ivar Martinsen concludes, “It is also important to point out that extreme weather is not just about roads that collapse, or stores that are damaged by water flooding into the building. It is about the safety of the community.”

Read the full report at: (available in Norwegian)

List of the best climate-adapted municipalities in Norway

Municipalities Points
1. Stavanger, Rogaland
2. Nedre Eiker, Buskerud
2. Bærum, Akershus
3. Kristiansand, Vest-Agder
3. Arendal, Aust-Agder
4. Larvik, Vestfold
4. Nord-Odal, Hedmark
5. Våler, Østfold
6. Sirdal, Vest-Agder
7. Søndre Land, Oppland
7. Porsgrunn, Telemark
8. Oslo
9. Trondheim, Trøndelag
10. Farsund, Vest-Agder
The highest possible score is 33 points.
Not included

Kristian Orispää

Communication Officer