In recent decades, we have witnessed a significant depletion of natural resources, leading to an urgent need for smarter and more sustainable cities. As a result, governments around the globe have increased their efforts in improving sustainability. They are beginning to understand the need to minimize environmental degradation through their city’s infrastructure, operations and facilities by incorporating new policies and solutions that work towards achieving that.
The results have been phenomenal, with the list of sustainable cities growing each year, some standing out as leading examples due to their efforts and achievements. The city of Oslo is certainly on top of this list and it’s all for a good number of reasons which is why many claim it to be one of the most sustainable cities in the world. Before diving into the Norwegian capital, let’s briefly go over some fundamental concepts of sustainability:
What Is Sustainability?
Sustainability refers to the ability of a country to meet its needs and evolve without having to compromise the ability of future generations to achieve the same. Cities that strive to be sustainable are characterized by their resilience and ability to adapt to rising issues with urbanization, as well as other economic, social, and environmental factors. They are referred to as smart or green cities and tend to focus on environmental factors such as renewable energy and efficiency in the sector, emissions reduction, and various green solutions and technologies.
The Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index 2022
The Dutch company Arcadis has recently released the 5th edition of its long-anticipated report – The Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index 2022. The report demonstrates that in a world confronted with a series of challenges like climate change, urbanization, and diminishing resources, in order to be truly prosperous, cities need to pursue sustainability.
The report evaluates the overall sustainability performances of 100 global cities, with European capitals taking the lead and US cities lagging behind despite having strong economic structures. Leading in the index is the Norwegian capital Oslo, followed closely by other European cities. Tokyo, Seattle, and San Francisco have also made their way into the top ten most sustainable cities, despite facing their own set of challenges. North American cities have proven to lead in profit and economic success but tend to fall behind in ranking relating to people and the planet.
The conducted evaluation provides an insightful overview of the world’s urban environments, the state of their economic development, geographical coverage, future growth expectations, and a unique set of sustainability challenges and areas where they are struggling to meet these goals.
Oslo Is One Of The Fastest-developing Cities In Europe When It Comes To Sustainability
Thanks to its tremendous efforts and achievements when it comes to sustainability, Oslo went from being eighth in the Sustainable Cities Index in 2018 to being first in 2022. The Norwegian capital is widely known as the hub of banking, trade, and shipping in the country. Its population consists of almost 700 000 inhabitants and at the heart of it is a vision for a smart, green, and inclusive city that thrives in all aspects of its social, economic, and environmental structures.
In 2019, the City of Oslo was awarded the title of European Green Capital. According to its mayor – Raymond Jonahsen, the city aims to be a global leader in leveraging public procurement as a strategic tool for achieving sustainability and meeting climate goals.
The city’s Procurement Strategy from 2017 presents a strengthened commitment to sustainable procurement. It is based on four sub-targets that reflect the values and vision of Oslo Municipality. These include making Oslo greener, more socially inclusive, and fair, as well as moving towards newer, innovative practices that will establish it further as a smart city. It also puts a strong emphasis on providing citizens and businesses with solutions and services that fall in line with the current and future needs of the country and the planet.
The Norwegian capital is widely recognized for investing in preserving green spaces. A total of one million trees grow within the urban zone of Oslo and two-thirds of the area is located within the city’s boundary, consisting of forests, parks, and lakes.
Oslo has successfully achieved the target air pollution figures set by the World Health Organisation (WHO) ranging between 10–12 µg/m³ since 2019. This is primarily due to the large amounts of greenery along with low carbon emissions. It is estimated that in Oslo alone, there are around 1,400km of forest roads and 2,100km of nature trails.
Renewable Energy And Zero Emissions By 2030
Oslo’s sustainability achievements hardly stop here. The city uses a lot of renewable energy, such as hydro power, which amounts to around 60% of its total energy consumption. The Norwegian capital’s emissions have reduced significantly since 2013 and are on track to achieving the objective of nearly zero emissions by 2030.
Emissions are being recorded and monitored citywide, with the municipal fund investing resources toward greener projects rather than fossil fuel-based options. The city aims to have a car-free center as well as establish incentives such as offering credits for electric transport bicycles, better access to public transport lanes, waived tolls for those driving electric cars as well as tax credits.
Oslo’s Climate Strategy outlines the journey of implementing an outstanding example of a green transformation that serves to achieve the city’s climate goals while developing and upgrading the existing urban community. The city is set towards becoming one that produces no greenhouse gas emissions and that can better address climate change.
A remarkable achievement in this area is the incorporation of the Climate Budget. Oslo is currently the first city worldwide to adopt a Climate Budget following the Paris Agreement. The budget includes several measures quantifying changes and emission cuts needed by 2030. Some priority areas include land use, transport, building and construction, waste, energy, consumption, and climate governance.
Sustainable And Circular Consumption
Oslo’s strategy for sustainable and circular consumption depicts perfectly how the city will facilitate sustainable and reduced material consumption in order to meet the criteria of the Procurement Strategy. The focus will be primarily on areas such as food, plastics, electronics, and textiles as well as building and construction materials.
A collaboration project involving a work training company called Oslokollega was established with the purpose of collecting electronic equipment for the purpose of reusing and recycling. The result was that from over 11 025 laptops – 506 were successfully recycled and the remaining 8 877 were reused between 2016 and 2020.
Oslo has made a lot of progress when it comes to sustainable public transportation, with an increasing share of zero-emission buses. Along with these technologies, biogas is another crucial energy source for buses and heavy-duty vehicles such as waste trucks in the city. An interesting fact is that biogas used in Oslo is produced locally in the region from food waste and sewage.
The number of people in Oslo traveling by public transport, bicycle, and on foot is also increasing. Oslo has the world’s highest proportion of electric cars, and is often referred to as the “EV Capital of the World”. Oslo’s government has made buying and owning electric vehicles very attractive which has boosted the private market for zero-emission vehicles. It is currently estimated that around 60% of all new passenger cars sold in Oslo are electric.
Energy And Buildings
Over the past years, Oslo has gained experience in the requirement of fossil-free construction. It is estimated that by 2025, all construction sites commissioned by the city of Oslo will have zero emissions. This strategy has been adopted as a minimum requirement in all construction procurements. In 2019, the city also introduced standardized award criteria to promote zero-emission machinery.
Oslo’s new agreements on food from 2023 state that new suppliers must deliver more sustainable plant-based and seasonal foods. The city is continuously working on developing its portfolio of framework agreements that offer sustainable alternatives, as well as simplified and affordable choices.
It is estimated that from 2018 to 2019 the share of fair trade-labeled groceries has increased from 13% to 25%. The municipality has also had success in increasing shares of organic food from 2% in 2018 to 10% in 2020, by working systematically with category and assortment management.
Social And Ethical Procurement
The city of Oslo is currently the “Fairtrade capital” of Norway. It was the first in the country to offer clothes made from Fairtrade-certified cotton to the health sector through the joint venture agreement for washing and renting workwear and institutional clothing. The inclusion of more social clauses was also established in contracts with a high risk of a breach of human rights and ILO core conventions throughout the supply chains.
Meeting Sustainability Development Goals
According to the prototype index created by the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and the non-profit organization Bertelsmann Stiftung, Oslo ranks in the top five performers when it comes to meeting Sustainability Development Goals. Those specific targets are predicted to be met by 2030 as reported by an article from the World Economic Forum.
Oslo stands as a fantastic example of what a city can achieve when it comes to sustainability and is well on its way to becoming one of the greenest cities in the world. Its goals for the future are nothing less than impressive and we have yet to see others follow in its footsteps.