Oslo has just released its “climate budget” for 2017, pledging to cut emissions in half in the next four years. Such radical reductions are necessary to avoid dangerous climate change, but is it possible?
Earlier this year Oslo pledged to reduce emissions to 50% below 1990 levels in 2020 and 95% in 2030. Oslo’s emissions have increased since 1990, requiring an unprecedented halving of emissions in the next four years.
An unexpected challenge for Oslo is the difficulty of estimating emissions. Statistics Norway has previously had trouble with emission estimates at the city level. Emissions also take time to estimate, with the latest estimate for Oslo in 2013. How will Oslo know if it has met its goals, and who will verify?
Oslo has put forward 42 measures to meet its 2020 goal, covering buildings, waste and transport.
Planning ahead to help finance the reductions, Oslo issued a green bond in December 2015 valued at 1.5 billion NOK. They were the first municipality to list a bond on Oslo Børs's green bond listing.
In its second opinion, CICERO rated the bond dark green (the highest environmental rating possible), meaning that the planned investments will implement solutions that are well-aligned for a low-carbon climate resilient future.
Who does the reductions?
|Buildings. The building sector will completely decarbonize, essentially by stopping the use of oil firing to heat private, commercial, and government buildings. Reduced oil firing will cover 28% of the required reductions to 2020. Fossil fuel free district heating will add an additional 6% of the required reductions.|
|Waste. Significant reductions will occur in the waste sector, with an important contribution of Carbon Capture and Storage at the Klemetsrud waste processing facility. Klemetsrud is the largest point-source of carbon dioxide in Oslo, generating emissions by burning waste for district heating. Since some of the waste is biological (food), this facility may generate negative emissions. Klemetsrud will require support from the national government, and many challenges persist. If successful, Klemetsrud will cover 20% of the required emission reductions.|
|Transport. Transport accounts for over half of Oslo’s emissions (60%), and transport will cover over 40% of the required reductions. A continuation of existing policies will make public transport fossil free by 2020, and a transition of the taxi fleet to fossil free will make collective transport zero emissions in 2020. New infrastructure (e.g., energy stations and increased biogas production) and procurement will support reductions in freight. Private transport has the largest challenges. To enable a reduction in traffic of 20% until 2020, measures include parking restrictions, environmental and time-differentiated tolls, and capacity increases in public transport and bicycle infrastructure.|
No city, let alone country, has proposed such radical reductions. But these reductions are exactly what the world needs to be consistent with keeping global average temperature below 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.
An important question is whether Oslo’s efforts will inspire other Norwegian regions. Oslo has 3% of Norway’s emissions, 13% of its population. Even if Oslo is successful it will only reduce national emissions about 1%, a small contribution to Norway’s 2020 pledged reductions.
Researchers have suggested that cities, and indeed companies, have the ability to be more ambitious than nation states. Could Oslo, followed by Norway, put theory into practice?