Oslo: the European Green Capital for 2019

Oslo has taken several vital steps that are good for the environment and for the people who live there and has been named the European Green Capital for 2019.

When I was growing up in Oslo, walking across the street at Rådhusplassen was a risky business, akin to climbing Prekestolen without using safety equipment. It was unsafe. I never thought it could be any different. But now, walking through the city streets, you hear the clatter of bike chains and people chatting to each other. Everything has changed. Vulnerable road users now take precedence. A new political philosophy has contributed to more people cycling around the city instead of driving their cars.
“It’s getting easier to cycle,” says Roar Løkken of the Norwegian Cyclists’ Association. “Steps are constantly being taken, making it easy to see the change, and there’s been a significant increase in the number of people cycling in winter.”

Photo: Didrick Stenersen

It hasn’t always been easy to cycle in towns where during winter months the streets are covered in snow. New road solutions have been introduced that enable cyclists to traverse streets without coming into conflict with vehicles. This is one of the reasons why noise levels in the city are now considerably lower. 

Oslo has been named the European Green Capital for 2019. Every year, the European Commission names a “Green Capital” based on a number of environmental factors, such as transport solutions, noise levels and, of course, climate emissions. You could compare it to a kind of European championship for environmental work. Some 14 cities applied to be European Green Capital 2019. In the final selection process, Oslo was up against Ghent, Lahti, Lisbon and Tallinn. 

Photo: Gaute Gjol DahleThe award is celebrated in many green ways. “Events will be staged where you’ll be able to see new, environmentally friendly solutions and get involved in a whole host of educational activities,” says Anita Lindahl Trosdahl, Project Manager of Oslo European Green Capital 2019.
“Some of the things I’m looking forward to the most are Biodiversity Week and the Havnelangs event, and many of the city’s museums will be staging their own activities,” she says.

During Biodiversity Week this month, visitors will enjoy a series of workshops, courses, talks and guided tours. Get up close and personal with badgers, hedgehogs and bees, and learn a variety of practical skills, such as how to build an insect hotel. During the Havnelangs event, you can explore the long harbor promenade that has been developed over the past few years. 
“Many visitors to Oslo will perhaps take in sights such as the city center, Grünerløkka and Operataket, but our events will enable you to see the city in a different way,” Trosdahl says.

Trosdahl goes on to say that it’s worth seeing how many of Oslo’s rivers and streams have been opened up to manage flows and help channel away water produced as a result of climate change.It also makes things nicer for people, and better for plants and animals.

Photo: Gaute Gjol DahleA number of fashion houses may have opened elegant stores in Oslo in recent years, but the concept of reuse is high on the agenda this year. To this end, a number of “exchange days” and markets have sprung up, where you can swap clothes instead of buying new ones. 
“Our environmental footprint can, in many ways, be attributed to our consumption of clothes. In Norway, we’re importing clothes like never before, and thousands of liters of water are used to produce just one t-shirt. Recycling clothes in this way reduces our need to buy new and helps us to put the brakes on both our level of resource consumption and the amount of pollution we produce. If all Norwegians exchanged three garments a year instead of buying new clothes, we could reduce CO2 emissions by the same amount as if all car owners in Norway stopped using their vehicles for five days,” says Janne Gillgren, Clothes Exchange Project Manager at Friends of the Earth, Norway. 

This drive is made easier by Oslo residents being given the opportunity to borrow tools and equipment, and take courses to learn how to make repairs and sew. 

During the year, delegations from other countries have been visiting the city to learn more about the good green work being done. 
“By the end of the year, we hope that both people and businesses will be more aware of climate issues and environmental approaches,” Trosdahl says.

Photo: Thomas Johannessen / VisitOSLO
Of course, we’ve already become more aware. When I was growing up, no one ever thought they would ever be able to take a dip in Oslofjorden – we could barely see it. But now you can see a bathing jetty. The water is so clean that if you are a hardy soul you can dive right in and not worry about the consequences. Then there’s also the blissful silence, attributable to the establishment of toll booths on routes into the city center and a greater percentage of electric vehicles. Some 22% of cars in Oslo are either electric or hybrid. But there’s still work to be done. 
“Oslo’s a little behind in terms of climate and resource use goals,” Trosdahl says. 

The aim is to cut climate emissions by 95% prior to 2030, and to be completely carbon neutral by 2050. 

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