Scandinavian Sustainability

The Norwegian city of Oslo has set an ambitious goal to cut their total emissions by 95% by 2030 according to this great article in Fast Company.

They are “attacking” all of the various elements that result in emissions as they work towards meeting their goals.  Oslo does have a bit of a headstart in this arena, as the country of Norway already runs on renewable electricity.  However, that still leaves a lot of work to do in order to achieve carbon neutrality.

They have proactively worked to reduce car usage in the city, and car traffic has fallen by 28% in 2019, and in 2017 and 2018 the city converted hundreds of parking spaces into bike lanes and parklets.  They have an ambitious cycle strategy to promote both biking and public transit within the city.  Public transit is partially financed with public money and the tolls on cars entering the city with the result of making public transit cheaper and more attractive an option.  The toll ring in Oslo makes it more expensive to drive in the city, and even more expensive if you choose a gas-fueled car versus an electric one.  By 2028 all public transportation will be zero-emission, including the ferries and every car on the road will be required to be electric by the end of the decade.  One great bonus of this reduced vehicle traffic is that Oslo had no pedestrian or cyclist deaths in 2019.

The direction of the city is also creating a great environment for innovation.  Package delivery services, like DHL, are already testing electric cargo bikes, which have the added advantage of moving easier through traffic and thus making deliveries more efficient.  At the Port of Oslo ships will be able to plug in and run on renewably generated electricity while they sit at shore.

Construction is another larger source of emissions and the city is partnering with other cities to generate demand for new, zero-emissions construction equipment.  Buildings will also need to become more efficient and run on more locally generated energy.  Energy which can be tackled with putting solar panels on roofs and creating heat from sources like the local sewage system, waste incineration and data centers.  The city is also looking deeply at the carbon footprint of all products it purchases, and is looking to facilitate more sharing, reuse and repairs among its citizens.

They freely admit that they don’t have all of the solutions yet in order to meet their stated goals, but they are working continuously with other stakeholders to develop policies and strategies to close the gaps.

Last year (back when travel was still a thing) we visited Scandinavia for a two-week vacation.  We knew we wanted to visit Copenhagen and Stockholm, but debated between Oslo and Helsinki as the last city on our itinerary.  We wanted to cap the number of places we visited at three so that we could enjoy four or five days in each city.  We ended up going with Helsinki, but have been working on planning a return trip that would include Oslo.  I cannot say enough great things about the three cities we did visit, with Copenhagen making the biggest impression on us.  You know when you get home and start doing some basic research on what it would take to be able to move to a foreign city that a place really spoke to you.  Not that I would think twice about calling Stockholm home at any time, or Edinburgh for that matter.  There is just something about the cultures of Northern Europe that line up with a lot of the things that I value and there is also something about countries and cities with that depth of history mixed with a modern energy that just feel like great places to live and work.  Needless to say we will be making more than a few trips once travel makes sense again.  I have included a couple of quick pics of our first trip below and will post more details on the trip, (with a lot of focus on where we ate) sometime soon.  There is a lot we can learn from these Scandinavian cities in terms of how to combine sustainability, economic growth and an eye towards societal good.

Thee Free Range Viking

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