Oslo, Norway’s unique approach to curbing carbon emissions

The capital of Norway is working to be nearly emission-free by 2030. Every year, the city of Oslo calculates how much emission-producing activity will contribute to greenhouse gases, then implements a carbon budget to keep those levels low. Lisa Desjardins speaks with Heidi Sørensen, director of Oslo's Agency for Climate, to learn more.

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  • Geoff Bennett:

    As the UN's climate summit wrapped up in Egypt, today, negotiators made headway on some issues but stalled when it came to cutting global emissions. That's with a recent report showing the burning of fossil fuels is on track to rise by 1 percent by the end of this year. We're going to take a look now at a country on track to be nearly emission free by the year 2030. That's Oslo, Norway.

    Every year the capital city calculates how much emission producing activity will contribute to greenhouse gases, and then implements a carbon budget to keep those levels low. This past week Lisa Desjardins spoke with Heidi Sorenson, the director of Oslo's climate agency.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    Hi, Oslo has been able to significantly reduce your emissions in just about two decades. The big question is how and then the more specific question is, industries aren't forced to comply? So why are they?

  • Heidi Sorenson, Climate Agency Director, Oslo Norway:

    I think one of the reason is that they got this climate budget going. That was important because we actually have every year's budget telling what has to be done by whom, when and when needed at what budgetary cost. So there was a way of getting from just policy targets and words into concrete action and results.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    It sounds like it was sort of a broad statements weren't enough, you had to target by specific parts of your society and say, here's what you have to do. How did that work?

  • Heidi Sorenson:

    It works that the municipality every year, put forward this carbon climate budget, and every entity in that community has been become stakeholders in the climate budget and know actually what to do. And three times a year, they want — they must report to the climate agency, how are they doing with their climate measures, so we can adjust, see if they have to do other things and get into dialogue when things aren't getting difficult. So we have been able to reduce and our aim is to reduce the climate emission by like 5 percent on 2030.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I know part of this too, is that in order to get city contracts, for example, some industries had to meet those targets. They weren't forced to do it. But if they wanted the city's business, they had to show they were cutting emissions. You know, ideas like that are pretty controversial here in America, in part because of the idea of sacrifice government involvement. Was this controversial at first in Oslo and what to most citizens they're thinking of it right now.

  • Heidi Sorenson:

    Some measures were controversial were first introduced, but no a majority of the population thinks that the climate measures has given them a better city. I'd like to see for all I think it's the one of the things that was where we were able to get the business on board was the way we have to use public procurement as an very active tool to get around and get reduced carbon emissions.

    So we have been able to develop technologies such as zero emission construction sites, that actually has been removed quite a lot of the emissions from Oslo.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    How are you doing with that goal? That's an ambitious goal you had, 95 percent emissions reductions by 2030. Where are you? Are you on track?

  • Heidi Sorenson:

    We are not on — not fully on track. Our lead calculation says that we will reach 62 percent by 2030, with the measures we have identified and adopted so far. So we still have a long way to go. But we are quite optimistic, there are definitely a possibility that we will be able to reach those 95 percent. There are eight more years to go.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    You've done better than national leaders in this country and global leaders around the world who just can't seem to agree on goals. Do you think cities should be the ones leading the way here on climate?

  • Heidi Sorenson:

    I think cities are leading on climate. I think many American cities do wonderful things as well. And, frankly speaking, the people living in cities are often more progressive and want to do see concrete action, and be a part of developing solutions. And I think that's necessary. And what they need the most is to demonstrate that actually combating climate change will create a better city and a better life for everyone.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    And one last question, climate news is often distressing continues to be distressing. I've spoken to some of our politicians here who almost seem to be disengaging, almost a sense that perhaps they can't fight where we are with climate right now. How do you answer those fears that perhaps we've gone too far already?

  • Heidi Sorenson:

    They have definitely gone far. But there are also definitely a way to move forward. So we can have less damage from climate change than we otherwise would have. But the most important thing, I think, is that climate issues has been about sacrifice and sacrifice. I think we should start looking upon climate — combating climate change as a way of creating better lives for everyone. Because that is the core of it. If you combat climate change, we actually create better lives for everyone.

  • Lisa Desjardins:

    I know that's been the experience. They're in Oslo, and Heidi Sorenson, thank you so much for telling us about it.

  • Heidi Sorenson:

    Thank you for having me.

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