Norway and Japan: A strategic green partnership

Kristin Iglum, Norway Ambassador to Japan

Ambassador Iglum joined the Norwegian Foreign Service in 1991 and has had positions at Norwegian missions in Asia, Europe, and the US. Her last posting was as Consul General in Shanghai, from 2017 to 2020. Before arriving in Tokyo, she was head of HR at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Oslo.

Bridges: Since beginning your role as Ambassador in 2023, what have been your most memorable experiences living and working in Japan?

Ambassador Iglum: Japan and Norway are two world-leading maritime nations connected through the open seas. With 120 years of diplomatic relations next year, we share a deep understanding and a long history of friendship. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to represent Norway in a like minded and beautiful country with such a rich history and culture as Japan. The reception I have received has been overwhelmingly positive, from employees, the diplomatic corps, Japanese authorities, and various contacts and partners of the embassy.

There are close ties between Norway’s Royal Family and the Japanese Imperial Family, and for me, my most memorable experience in Japan so far was the audience with His Majesty the Emperor when I presented my credentials last fall. Another significant event was the meeting in December 2023 between our two Prime Ministers, PM Støre and PM Kishida, which marked the upgrading of Japan-Norway relations to a strategic partnership. We have immense potential to further develop cooperation in various areas such as clean energy, green transition, and sustainable use of marine living resources.

How would you describe the current relationship between Norway and Japan in terms of bilateral relations and people to people exchanges?

The countries, as previously mentioned, share a longstanding bilateral history marked by collaboration across various domains including maritime affairs, trade, research, culture, and politics. As two prominent maritime nations, our mutual expertise in the maritime sector and shared commitment to sustainable fisheries stand as two of the cornerstone elements in the Norway-Japan partnership. Our bilateral relationship is constantly developing with global developments, with a current focal point on decarbonization and the green transition.

Japan and Norway are two world-leading maritime nations connected through the open seas. 

Kristin Iglum, Norway Ambassador to Japan

We recognize significant potential for mutual learning and collaboration across governmental and business sectors. The bilateral cooperation agreement in science and technology, marking its 20th anniversary in 2023, has been instrumental to strengthen the connection between research, innovation, and industry. Norway and Japan encounter similar challenges, necessitating a robust knowledge foundation to devise practical and cost-effective solutions in areas such as renewable energy, aging societies, and sustainable Arctic management.

Our robust research collaboration across various levels is indispensable. Over the years, our governments have facilitated student exchanges, industry internships, and partnerships between academic institutions and businesses, fortifying ties and fostering innovation.

In terms of business, what industries do you see as growth areas between the two countries? (Maritime being key)

As previously highlighted, the maritime sector serves as a foundational element of our collaboration. The digitalization of maritime operations holds significant importance in both Japan and Norway, with autonomous solutions also emerging as a priority. The global imperative for decarbonization profoundly impacts the maritime industry, presenting green shipping as a key domain for advancing our partnership. Initiatives such as the development of zero-emission technologies, electrification of ports, utilization of alternative fuels like hydrogen and ammonia, and carbon dioxide transportation signify areas for enhanced cooperation.

Furthermore, the transition towards greener economies in our respective nations presents vast potential. To meet our climate objectives, there is an urgent call for increased adoption of renewable solutions, including offshore wind, hydrogen and ammonia technologies, battery storage, and carbon capture and storage (CCS). Recognizing this imperative, Norway and Japan have forged a strategic green partnership aimed at expediting this transition.

What does the upgrading of the bilateral relationship and the announcement of a joint statement on strategic partnership mean for further Norwegian Japanese cooperation?

As articulated in the joint statement, this entails a shared interest in working closer together on bilateral, regional, multilateral, and global issues to respond to the changing strategic environment. Specifically, this involves enhanced cooperation across various arenas such as strengthened political collaboration and hopefully increased mutual trade and investments. Both countries have quite similar climate ambitions and are well-positioned to collaborate on technological development to achieve these goals. Offshore wind energy plays a crucial role in the green transition, and both countries have an interest in collaborating to further develop the technology to reduce costs.

Moreover, Norway is a global leader in green maritime, which is also a significant component of the value chain for offshore wind and the Japanese export industry. We collaborate effectively in various multilateral forums and share views on key areas related to peace and security. We also share a common interest in international rules of law, including a maritime order anchored in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. There is significant potential for increased cooperation in science, technology, defense, and security. For Norway’s part, the embassy will increasingly leverage resources within the Norwegian government apparatus and locally to strengthen and focus Team Norway. Specifically, this involves increasing our staff when it comes to energy expertise, among other areas. This is work in progress.

What plans does Norway have for participation in EXPO 2025?

The theme for Expo 2025 in Osaka is “Designing Future Society for Our Lives.” The World Expo aims to highlight the best of our knowledge and technology that contribute to addressing the global challenges we face. Norway is part of a joint Nordic collaboration, including a splendid Nordic pavilion. The construction of this pavilion is on schedule, with a groundbreaking ceremony in March.

The strategic partnership between Norway and Japan, along with the Green Partnership, are important cornerstones supporting the theme of Expo 2025. We aim to demonstrate that Norwegian industry will be a significant contributor to the development of green value chains and the green transition in the Nordic region, in Japan and internationally.

We intend to utilize the World Expo to further develop our trade relations with Japan. I am confident that the Nordic pavilion will provide the public and participants with a seamless and attractive experience of Norway and the Nordic region.

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