It’s a hard fact to accept, but vehicles powered by gasoline and diesel engines are slowly strangling us and the planet we live on by spewing billions of tons of carbon dioxide and other pollutants into the air. If we are to have any hope of survival, we must explode the myth that we should all be free to drive anywhere we want, whenever we want, and as often as we want in privately owned vehicles that burn fossil fuels.
8 years ago, the Norwegian government established carbon reduction goals, but Norway has never achieved any of the annual targets — until now. Preliminary data suggests this year the country may indeed meet its goal of limiting carbon dioxide emissions from all sources to 48.6 billion tons — precisely the target established in 2012.
Corrected Emissions Figures
Total carbon emissions in Norway have been going down every year for the past 3 years. Last year there were fears the trend had come to an end, but in recent days Statistics Norway has corrected the final figures for Norwegian greenhouse gas emissions in 2019. The new calculation shows emissions decreased 3.4% from the previous year, resulting in the lowest greenhouse gas emission in Norway in 27 years.
How to explain the decrease? Sveinung Rotevat, Norway’s Minister of Climate and Environment, tells Aftenposten, “This is the result of pressing a lot of buttons and it finally starts to have effect. The measures have been many, but it takes time for them to take effect. Although the electric car benefits have been there for a while, it still takes some time for people to change the car they drive.”
Surge In EVs
Battery electric and plug-in hybrid cars now represent nearly 2/3 of all new car sales in Norway, but gasoline and diesel powered cars still are the vast majority of cars on the road. “This is good news and electric cars deserve a lot of credit, says Unni Berge, communications manager at the Norwegian Electric Car Association. “In April, electric cars in Norway reached a milestone, accounting for more than 10 per cent of the total car fleet. The increase in electric cars is now clearly shown in the fuel statistics,” she says.
Sales of gasoline and diesel in Norway were down by more than 330 million liters during the period 2017 through 2019, according to Statistics Norway. “These are inspirational figures that show that Norway’s electric car policy has started to give us tangible results,” Berge says.
Delayed Impact Of Electric Cars
The biggest reduction in greenhouse gas emissions comes from the transport sector and is due to reduced fossil fuel sales, increased number of electric cars, increased public transport, and greater use of biofuels, according to research led by Steffen Kallbekken at the Cicero Climate Research Center. He believes the reduction in fossil fuel usage is not temporary but will continue.
“It has taken a long time before increased sales of electric cars and other changes have been reflected in the emissions accounts. One important reason is that it takes a long time to replace the car park, and that Norwegian households drive longer than before, so that increased car use has covered much of the positive effect of more electric cars and more public transport journeys.”
In fact, Norwegians are using public transportation and bicycle highways more than ever despite the challenges of the coronoavirus. The country has committed more than $1 billion to building new bike paths to connect suburbs with urban centers.
Planning For The Future
In February of this year, the government strengthened Norway’s climate target for 2030. “Many thought it was a completely unrealistic goal because we didn’t even want to reach the 2020 target. But we meant it seriously. We have to do this. The decline we have now seen in 2018 and 2019 shows that this is possible,” says Rotevatn.
He adds there are other changes happening that will further reduce carbon emissions in Norway. “Soon we will have 80 electric ferries in place in Norwegian fjords. That means 80 fewer diesel ferries.” Norway has also instituted a ban on using mineral oil to heat buildings. That new policy alone is expected to result in a reduction in carbon emissions of 80,000 tons.
Biofuels Are No Panacea
But there is always more to be done. Lars Haltbrekken of the SV political party tells Aftenposten, “A large part of the emissions cuts is a result of increased use of biofuels, which come from cutting down the rain forest and increasing emissions elsewhere in the world. It is totally inexcusable to have a climate policy where one is impressed by the emission cuts on paper here at home, but which is, in reality, causing great harm in the world.”
Norway is taking a more serious approach to cutting carbon emissions than almost any other nation, but there is much work to be done yet. Change takes time, but time is the one thing the Earth doesn’t have a lot of. The urgency is great, but it will take 100 other Norways to make a significant dent in the world’s enormous oversupply of carbon dioxide.
Hat Tip: Are Hansen