Jul 09, 2019 Sustainability New

Nordic by nature – Oslo, the green model city

Oslo is the Green Capital of the European Union in 2019. The Norwegian metropolis is one step ahead of the rest of Europe in sustainability matters.

  • The Norwegian capital Oslo has been named the Green Capital for 2019 by the European Union.
  • Sustainability plays an important role in Oslo and throughout Norway, with funding for numerous projects provided by the government.
  • With their innovative focus, Norwegian companies are forerunners in the sustainability megatrend – which pays off economically, too.
3 min. to read

95 %

reduction of its emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 is Oslo's ambitious goal.

Norwegians love “friluftsliv” or “open-air life”. What it means is the time spent exploring and appreciating nature. It’s no wonder that hardly any other people is as willing to protect the environment as the Vikings’ descendants.


The Norwegian capital set an impressive example for sustainability when it received the European Union’s Green Capital Award for 2019.  The EU had many good reasons for its choice. For one thing, in 2017 the city announced the goal of reducing its emissions by 95 percent by 2030 compared to 1990.[1] Oslo, which has a population of about 700,000, is by no means a megacity, but it is home to one in six Norwegians. The city elders have created a master plan for the further development of sustainability with an approach that others could emulate. Three examples show why Oslo prevailed over 13 other cities to become the European Green Capital.

Example 1: Clean and quiet

Up until now, about 92,000 tons of CO2emissions were produced annually by construction work[2], which alone was responsible for approximately 20 percent of total environmental pollution in the city.[3] City authorities have therefore decreed that all construction machinery must be equipped with electric motors or other emission-free motors in the future. The old diesel-powered excavators, dump trucks and bulldozers will disappear from the cityscape. Right now fossil-free equipment is being used to dig foundations for new kindergartens, pedestrian zones and sports arenas.[4] A pleasant side effect is that e-motors work almost soundlessly, so the era of construction vehicle noise is history in Oslo.

Example 2: E-motors on land, water and in the air

Tesla Chairman Elon Musk loves Norway, which is considered the El Dorado of electric mobility. E-autos have long been cruising in the passing lane here.  In 2018 they accounted for more than 30 percent[5] of newly registered vehicles. This year nearly half of new private vehicles sold in Oslo are equipped with electric engines. City administrators are now looking beyond road traffic to the waterways. By 2026, only electric ships will be allowed in the Oslo Fjord.[6] The first shipbuilders have already reacted with offers of compliant ships. Ferry operators estimate that they will decrease their emissions by more than 90 percent.[6] It’s only logical that Norway has put sustainability in air traffic too at the top of its agenda. Covering short distances with an electrically powered airplane is no longer a fantasy but rather a concrete plan. If the Scandinavians have it their way, all short-haul flights in the country will be electric, starting in 2040.[7]

Example 3: Reining in the rain

Snowy winters are normal in Norway. In the course of climate change, however, heavy rainfall is more frequently occurring in other seasons.  That puts a strain on the Oslo sewer system and results in overflowing and sometimes costly damage. The clever solution is to integrate some roads as floodways into stormwater management instead of upgrading the existing sewer system. Furthermore, the city is calling on residential properties to establish rain gardens for seepage. Test runs have been started recently.[8]

All of that benefits the environment and pays off in euros and cents. The operating costs of Oslo ferries, for example, are predicted to fall by 80 percent[9] when the agreed measures are implemented. The water protection measures will stem the high subsequent costs related to extreme rainfall not just in Norway but all around the world.[10]

Sustainability advantage for investors

The Scandinavians also have a lot to offer to investors. The innovative business environment in Norway is oriented toward the future and in a firmly established position. For years the country has made the list of the 10 most competitive economies in the world. The high ranking is due in part to Norway’s corporate culture and working conditions, which are more modern than in most other European countries. Almost every year in its report on the development standards of member states, the United Nations confirms that Norway has the best quality of life.[11] The country has earned this distinction because it banked on sustainability  early on. Since then sustainability has become a trend throughout Europe, as shown in the results of the recent European elections. Perhaps the Norwegian “Friluftsliv”, like “ski”, “fjord” and “troll”, will be added to the world’s vocabulary.

What's your standpoint towards e-mobility?

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1. Source: https://carbonneutralcities.org/cities/oslo/

2. Source: https://businessportal-norwegen.com/2018/11/30/immer-mehr-emissionsfreie-baustellen-in-oslo/ (German only)

3. Source: https://bellona.org/news/transport/electric-vehicles/2017-12-bellona-gets-green-light-for-project-to-electrify-construction-machinery

4. Source: https://www.oslo.kommune.no/politics-and-administration/smart-oslo/projects/zero-emission-construction-sites/#gref

5. Source: https://www.faz.net/aktuell/wirtschaft/diginomics/der-preis-des-elektroauto-wunders-in-norwegen-15972778.html (German only)

6. Source: https://breathelife2030.org/news/norways-fjords-will-first-zero-emission-zone-sea-2026/

7. Source: https://www.wiwo.de/unternehmen/dienstleister/zukunft-der-luftfahrt-norwegen-will-das-elektro-flugzeug/21113694.html (German only)

8. Source: https://www.oslo.kommune.no/getfile.php/13166800-1478167579/Content/English/Politics%20and%20administration/Green%20Oslo/Plans%20and%20programmes/Action%20Plan%20for%20Storm%20Water%20Management%20in%20Oslo%20Excutive%20Summary.pdf

9. Source: https://breathelife2030.org/news/norways-fjords-will-first-zero-emission-zone-sea-2026/

10. Source: https://www.euractiv.com/section/climate-environment/news/extreme-weather-cost-europe-nearly-half-a-trillion-euros-so-far/

11. Source: https://www.unric.org/de/uno-schlagzeilen/26576-uno-norwegen-ist-hoechstentwickeltes-land (German only)

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