Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Climate Goals: Is Oslo Leading the Way?



Norway is deadly serious in its bid to become the most climate-friendly country in Europe and has aggressively set about managing its emissions levels.

In January 2017 Oslo issued a temporary ban on all diesel cars entering the capital from 6am to 10pm, a move indicative of the increasing worldwide hostile attitudes towards diesel cars. While some applauded the ban others were highly critical, especially as only 10 years ago Norwegians were being actively encouraged and even incentivised to buy “environmentally friendly” diesel cars.

A permanent ban?

There is already a congestion charge for entering Oslo city during the daytime. But in 2015 the city council announced its intention to make Oslo city centre a completely car-free zone by 2019 - that’s only two years away and six years in advance of a country-wide ban. If it does happen it will be the first permanent car-free zone in Europe and the largest of its kind.

The ‘carrot’ in this scenario is the planned boost to public transport and addition of 40 miles of bicycle lanes. The ‘stick’ however is the idea of new tax levies on heavy vehicles registered before 2014 and increased tax on passenger cars, though at the moment there is no indication of whether electric or hybrid cars would be exempt. The city is nonetheless putting its money where its mouth is: it has reportedly begun to remove parking spaces in preparation and is divesting fossil fuels from its pension funds.

Tackling pollution from cars head-on

Looking at the wider picture, the Norwegian government plans to cut its greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2030, and eventually only allow zero emission new cars to be registered. It already offers aggressive incentives for drivers to buy plug-in electric cars. In 2016 29% of new car sales in Norway were plug-in electric, and in January 2017 that number was 37.5%. Over the last few years Norway has been the only country in the world where all-electric vehicles have regularly topped the monthly rankings for new car sales.

The rest of Europe is watching

It’s easy to see the attractions of a car free zone. Apart from obvious improvements in air quality, newly emptied roads can be rededicated as sidewalks, cafes and public parks. After all a car is the most inefficient way to get around a city. Traffic in London today moves slower than the average cyclist and commuters in Los Angeles spend 90 hours per year in traffic.

Of course, the total car ban in Oslo has its critics. The council point out the proposed car-free zone is home to only about 1,000 residents but 90,000 workers. Commercial organizations, however, complain that area includes 11 of the city’s 57 shopping centers, so trade would be drastically affected. Not just from a possible drop in shopper numbers, but difficulties in getting deliveries if lorries have to meet stricter emissions levels. 

Other European capitals are watching Oslo closely. If successful, then the car-free zone could provide the blueprint for others to follow suit, making city centres a better place for everyone.

For more information, please see: fortune.com/2016/06/04/norway-banning-gas-cars-2025/

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Was the Clean Power Plan Just Wiped Out?


The Clean Power Plan was the subject of a Trump executive action, as you know by now. Without a doubt, this act by the current White House administration is a major attack on American’s clean air and water that we, in a first-world nation, have become accustomed to. The Trump administration is full of Climate Change deniers, who won’t even acknowledge that 2016 was the hottest year for the planet on record, and 9 of the last 10 years have also been the hottest years in history. 

In addition to the Clean Power Plan, the Trump administration and Republican House have been busy dismantling EPA environmental regulations that protect air and water from polluting industries. However, there are a few caveats to these actions that deserve a closer look.

That executive order regarding the Clean Power Plan can't take effect immediately anyway. The subjects of Trump’s executive actions regarding the Clean Power Plan and other regulations that protect the environment are mostly regulations that must be litigated before any repeal can take place. When, and if, they do take effect, polluters can freely pollute or, rather, they could, if the CPP and other environmental regulations were actually repealed. 

However, even the environmental regulations that are repealed, are going to produce lawsuits, so either way, there's litigation. In the case of polluters freely polluting, in addition to the litigation, there’s also pollution, the cost of cleaning up the pollution, and the cost to human and animal health and well-being.

Coal-based energy production is the #1 cause of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as causing deaths among coal miners. There have been 76,000 coal miner deaths due to black lung disease alone, since 1968. It would be difficult to state an advantage dirty coal has over clean energy because there isn’t one. 

Renewable energy is also much more cost effective than coal, in addition to being cleaner. Jobs are trending towards the renewable industry, and away from the fossil fuel industry. Renewables, such as solar and wind, are also getting cheaper than coal and has been getting cheaper for years. (https://cleantechnica.com/2013/09/19/nrdc-clean-energy-affordable-way-power-us/)

Fossil fuel jobs accounted for only 22% of jobs in the energy sector last year in the United States. In 2016, there were only between 70,000-80,000 jobs in the coal industry. There were over 500,000 jobs in solar last year in the US alone, and much more across the world. So, let's set aside pollution and climate change; where's the economic benefit of coal? And, we're only talking about solar - there's also wind, biomass, geothermal and hydroelectric. Now, let’s add back in the pollution from, and environmental hazard that is, coal. Where’s the benefit of coal???

Also see these articles for information about the Clean Power Plan, environmental regulations that are on the chopping block and the fight to protect the environment:

New York Times- http://nyti.ms/2nk3MF7