Oslo – European Green Capital 2019 – asserts its ambitions
European Green Capital
Each year since 2010, the European Green Capital Award, conferred by the European Commission, honors a city for its sustainable development efforts. The choice of Oslo is a great accolade for this capital, small in size (670,000 inhabitants) but harbouring big ambitions. Nestled at the end of a fjord, surrounded by forest, Oslo, the discreet Norwegian capital, enjoys an enchanting natural setting. All things considered, its ecological vocation is not surprising, albeit a bit paradoxical in a country whose subsoil is abundant in fossil fuels, making energy transition less urgent than elsewhere.
But far from taking the easy way out, Oslo is forging ahead with ecological transition. The Social Democrat and Green coalition, at the head of the country since 2015, was elected on the basis of a radical programme with the objective to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 50% by 2020 and 95% by 2030. An unprecedented target! Proving its unwavering determination, Oslo was the first capital to allocate an annual “Climate Budget” in 2017, along with an action plan.
Oslo 2025: CO2-neutral cars
To achieve its targets, the city intends to produce 100% renewable energy using its hydroelectric plants, certainly (99% of the country’s electricity), but also by developing widespread use of its zero-carbon urban heating system, produced by four incineration plants powered by biofuels and heat pumps. It should be noted that Oslo has no choice on this point: in 2020, gas and oil heating systems will be banned in Norway.
But here, like in most cities, transport is the main source of greenhouse gas emissions (61% in 2013). To put an end to this, the city has set itself an incredible challenge: to ensure that all new cars are “clean”, i.e. carbon-neutral, by 2025. All efforts are therefore being made to accelerate car conversion. Already in Norway, electric vehicles are exempt from registration tax and from a quarter of VAT. Oslo is even more generous with electric car owners: they pay neither the toll fee at the entrance to the city (which targets polluting vehicles) nor parking fees in car parks, and they’re allowed to use bus lanes, even during peak hours! Result: in 2016, electric cars accounted for 54% of new registrations in Oslo, while hybrids accounted for 15.4% of sales. Still, batteries need to be recharged, but the municipality is working on this too: it has put agreements in place with private operators and covers 50% of the installation costs of electric charging stations. By end 2017, it had deployed 1,300 charging stations that it co-owns.
By 2020, Oslo will have eliminated the majority of private cars from its city centre. Apart from those for disabled people, there will be no more cars.
The first car-free capital
Oslo has decided to go even further, by banning cars from the city centre by 2020. Dissuasive measures are being introduced to achieve this: 700 parking spaces have been eliminated, leaving room for green areas, street furniture and street cafés. Changes to city centre zoning, conversion of certain streets to pedestrian areas and bikeways, and increased congestion charges are also on the agenda. Vehicle traffic in the city centre is now limited to an area of 1.9 km2. These announcements have aroused the ire of certain users and business people, but the municipality is standing firm and proceeding as planned.
With its exemplary initiatives and its status as European Green Capital, Oslo aspires to be an inspiration for cities the world over. There has never been a better time to visit this city!