Oslo Issues First, Ambitious “Climate Budget”

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Oslo Issues First, Ambitious “Climate Budget”

As Paris climate agreement goes into effect, the Norwegian city takes on radical goals of its own.

Oslo plans to add more bike lanes, decreasing parking and increase tolls for cars in the center city. (Photo by Larry Lamsa via Flickr)

Four days before American voters choose between a presidential candidate who supports the Paris climate agreement and one who opposes it, the landmark accord will enter into force on November 4. As ABC News reports, in order for the deal to take effect, 55 countries accounting for at least 55 percent of global emissions had to adopt it, a threshold reached Wednesday afternoon when 73 of the 197 parties to the treaty did so. The timeline — just under a year from adoption to entering into force — is considered record speed for international diplomacy, reflecting both the urgency of climate change and the desire to lock in a deal before UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon and President Barack Obama leave office.

Meanwhile, Oslo is also aiming for record speed in meeting its own climate goals. Last week the Norwegian city issued its first “climate budget,” which aims to halve greenhouse gas emissions within four years, reports Reuters. The plan sets annual goals to reduce emissions from cars, homes and businesses, by raising tolls for cars entering the city, eliminating parking spaces, building more bike lanes, shifting the bus fleet to renewable energy, and phasing out fossil-fuel heating for homes and offices.

The Oslo council had already agreed earlier in the year to halve Oslo’s emissions from 1.2 million tons of carbon dioxide in 1990 to 600,000 by 2020. It’s an even steeper dive from current levels, which hover around 1.4 million. The city is also aiming for net zero emissions by 2030. The “carbon budget” is supposed to outline how exactly the city will get there.

“We’ll count carbon dioxide the same way as we count money,” Vice Mayor Robert Steen told Reuters. Seth Schultz of C40 Cities said he knew of no major city with a plan as radical. “Integrating carbon into the financial budget is new,” he said.

Experts acknowledged that these cuts would be unprecedented. According to Reuters, no country has cut emissions by more than about 5 percent a year, a rate France achieved when it switched from fossil fuels to nuclear power in the 1970s. The rich countries that have signed on to the Paris agreement expect it will take decades to halve their own, larger emissions. Other cities, including Austin, are setting climate goals that match or outpace national goals.

Jen Kinney is a freelance writer and documentary photographer. Her work has also appeared in Philadelphia Magazine, High Country News online, and the Anchorage Press. She is currently a student of radio production at the Salt Institute of Documentary Studies. See her work at jakinney.com.

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Tags: resilient citiesclimate change

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