Oslo’s governing mayor on how to green a city, a Mexican city gets a rebrand, car-sharing in Slovenia and Berlin’s rooftops are blooming.
Oslo aims to be carbon-neutral by 2030 and Raymond Johansen has spent his first three years as governing mayor overseeing the city’s ambitious carbon-cutting policies and introducing the world’s first “carbon budget”. Norway’s capital, which was named the 2019 European Green Capital, wants to inspire other cities and governments but there are still major challenges ahead.
MONOCLE: How will Oslo reach carbon neutrality?
RAYMOND JOHANSEN: Oslo’s waste-incinerator plant is responsible for about 14 per cent of all the city’s emissions. Hopefully we will be able to install CCS [carbon capture and storage, a process of capturing waste carbon dioxide and transferring it to a location where it won’t enter the atmosphere] there. This is also a kind of technology we could export to the 500 other incinerator plants throughout Europe. As quite a rich city and as a rich country, we can develop this technology and make it cheaper for others to implement.
M: How does Oslo’s climate budget work?
RJ: We count carbon emissions the same way as we count money. All parts of Oslo need to report back to us [at the city council, regarding] how much they can reduce emissions. Our deputy mayor of finance is responsible for making everyone stay within this climate budget.
M: How do you get people and businesses onboard?
RJ: You have to find the right balance between the carrot and the stick. There cannot be too many obstacles for people in their daily lives when introducing a car-free city centre, for instance. So we improve public transport and co-operate with shops to improve goods deliveries. We make it more expensive to drive a diesel than an electric car. We have a toll-ring around the city while simultaneously increasing the number of buses. From January 2017 to January 2018 we reduced the number of cars passing through the toll-ring by 500,000 [per month].
M: What role do cities play in pushing the green agenda?
RJ: Cities are definitely the frontrunners. We see it in London with the congestion charge and in Paris where they are introducing car-free days. And importantly we see cities in the US campaigning under the slogan “We are still in” – as in the Paris Agreement. So they are pushing the government to accept Paris.
Berlin’s senate – the executive body governing Germany’s capital – has announced plans to invest €1.5m in green roofs across the city. The scheme will allow homeowners to apply for grants to transform their rooftops into verdant oases. “Green roofs have various positive effects,” says Dorothee Winden of the city’s Department for the Environment, Transport and Climate Protection. They “trap water, which then evaporates and helps cool down the city during hot summers. But most important is the way a roof garden can improve quality of life for city-dwellers.”
Ljubljana is going the distance with an electric car-sharing system. Though Paris cancelled a similar scheme this year due to financial losses, the Slovenian capital is finding that the system is working. Two years on from launching, Avant2Go has more than 40 stations across the city.
The vehicles, ranging from the diminutive Smart Fortwo to the seriously speedy BMW i3, are rented both by time and distance. One reason why the scheme is working in Ljubljana, having failed elsewhere, could be that an efficient logistics team ensures stations are well stocked, while reserved spots mean parking is always available.
Cancún, the Mexican city that’s become synonymous with the US tradition of spring break, is about to get a more prominent place on the map. It sits in the municipality of Benito Juárez but the area’s new mayor, Mara Lezama, has announced plans to ditch the name Benito Juárez (given in honour of Mexico’s first indigenous president) and rebrand the whole municipality Cancún to make the most of this party town’s reputation. The original Juárez is unlikely to be turning in his grave: a number of other places bear his name.