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Leon Kaye headshot

Norway's Capital Aims to Cut Carbon Emissions in Half by 2020

By Leon Kaye

As the vice mayor told Reuters in a recent interview, “We’ll count carbon dioxide the same way as we count money.” To that end, government is counting on businesses to partner with the city in order to reduce emissions from almost 1.4 million tons in 2013 to 600,000 tons at the start of the next decade. The current administration is aiming for a zero-emissions Oslo by 2030.

Much of this plan involves a rework of the entire transportation infrastructure for this city of 620,000. Oslo’s government wants to add almost 40 miles of new bicycle lanes as it eliminates more street parking spaces and increases tolls for automobiles entering the city center. The result would be the removal of at least 1 in 5 cars from the city’s streets by 2020. Public transportation would also score a makeover, as the budget intends to develop a bus fleet fueled by only renewables.

The shift away from oil and gas to clean energy would also occur within Oslo’s utility sector. In a city where average winter temperatures stay below freezing and plunge into the teens at night (in Fahrenheit), the largest city in an oil-rich nation is nudging homes and offices to switch to heating systems that use sources other than fossil fuels. In fact, a ban on using any such fuels, including kerosene, is on target to take effect in 2020. City leaders are taking applications for grants from housing associations now in order to switch to Oslo’s district heating system.

In addition, the government is also hoping to reduce its emissions by making investments in carbon capture, a technology touted by many but others say is unproven and is far too expensive. The city currently has a waste-to-energy plant that it wants to retrofit with carbon capture technology, but scaling up that project could cost as much as $250 million -- and that is one of many line items in the city’s carbon budget that it needs to fund in order to make a “warmer and greener city” the reality.

How far Oslo’s government can go on its quest to become a climate-neutral city in 14 years depends on its relationship with the national government. The mayor’s office says it can make these changes over the next four years in part with grants and fund provided by Norway’s central government. But whether the city’s 1-year-old alliance between liberal Labor Party and Socialist Left politicians can score buy-in from the conservative party, which has run Norway since 2013, is a huge question mark.

Image credit: Dion Hinchcliffe/Flickr

Leon Kaye headshot

Leon Kaye has written for 3p since 2010 and become executive editor in 2018. His previous work includes writing for the Guardian as well as other online and print publications. In addition, he's worked in sales executive roles within technology and financial research companies, as well as for a public relations firm, for which he consulted with one of the globe’s leading sustainability initiatives. Currently living in Central California, he’s traveled to 70-plus countries and has lived and worked in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates and Uruguay.

Leon’s an alum of Fresno State, the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and the University of Southern California's Marshall Business School. He enjoys traveling abroad as well as exploring California’s Central Coast and the Sierra Nevadas.

Read more stories by Leon Kaye