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Interview with Raymond Johansen, Governing Mayor of Oslo

Climate Action caught up with Raymond Johansen, Governing Mayor of Oslo, Norway, on scaling up low carbon investment and his participation in the Sustainable Investment Forum 2017

By: EBR - Posted: Wednesday, May 24, 2017

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All growth in transport is to be covered by public transport, walking or bicycling, and these transport modes get priority over the car. In 2016, for the first time, more daily trips were made by public transport than by private cars. To be able to accommodate the increased volume of passengers Oslo is planning a new metro tunnel, a new tramline and increased capacity on existing lines. How we finance public transport infrastructure in Oslo is worth mentioning as a large proportion is financed through the toll ring charges.
All growth in transport is to be covered by public transport, walking or bicycling, and these transport modes get priority over the car. In 2016, for the first time, more daily trips were made by public transport than by private cars. To be able to accommodate the increased volume of passengers Oslo is planning a new metro tunnel, a new tramline and increased capacity on existing lines. How we finance public transport infrastructure in Oslo is worth mentioning as a large proportion is financed through the toll ring charges.

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Firstly, could you please introduce Oslo’s involvement in climate action, and the types of initiatives taken by the city to reduce emissions?

In June 2016, Oslo’s City Council adopted the City’s Climate and Energy Strategy. In the strategy Oslo commits to the City's CO2 emissions by 50 per cent by 2020, provided full installation of a carbon-capture and storage technology at our waste to energy plant. By 2030 we aim for a 95 per cent reduction compared to the 1990 level. Greenhouse gas emissions in Oslo have shown a steady increase since 1990 until 2013. However, in 2015 the emissions were back at 1990-levels, just above 1,200,000 tonnes and down 16% from 2013. Thus, to reach the 2020 target we will have to cut CO2 emissions with about 600,000 tonnes.

However, the City only controls about 4 per cent of emissions. The role of the City then is to facilitate emission cuts. To get to where we want to, we need close cooperation between the City, our residents, the business community, organisations, academia, national authorities and other public enterprises.

In Oslo, 65 per cent of the emissions come from transport. Half of the transport emissions come from private cars, public transport and taxis. The other half comes from light and heavy duty vehicles and construction machinery. To mitigate transport emissions the City’s goal is to reduce all car traffic by 20 per cent during this election period, and one third by 2030. To achieve this, the City is removing parking spaces, increasing the charges at the toll ring and we have just started the work on low emission zones. 

All growth in transport is to be covered by public transport, walking or bicycling, and these transport modes get priority over the car. In 2016, for the first time, more daily trips were made by public transport than by private cars. To be able to accommodate the increased volume of passengers Oslo is planning a new metro tunnel, a new tramline and increased capacity on existing lines. How we finance public transport infrastructure in Oslo is worth mentioning as a large proportion is financed through the toll ring charges.

Also, to increase the bicycle share the City is investing in more and better bicycle infrastructure. As many people use their feet on daily trips, Oslo also has a walking strategy. 

We do acknowledge that sometimes people need to drive a car, and then we prefer that it is an electric one. Together with the national government, the City has made EVs cheap to buy and easy to use. This means lower fees and taxes when buying an EV, access to the bus lane, free parking, public charging points and free passage through the toll ring.

The use of fossil heating oil in buildings accounts for 11 per cent of the emissions. The City’s own Climate and Energy Fund provides financial support for replacing old oil boilers in commercial buildings. The national fund, Enova, offers the same to private households. In addition, the City has launched the “Oil Free Help” where we reach out to households that still have oil boilers and offer advice and information on renewable energy heating systems. The goal is to fully phase out these emissions by 2020. The City of Oslo is pushing national authorities to impose a band on the use of fossil heating oil in buildings.

A total of 18 per cent of the city's emissions derive from the treatment of sewage and waste. The City is working with national authorities and the business community to install full scale carbon capture and storage technology at Oslo’s largest waste-to-energy plant. 

The city of Oslo has issued Green Bonds, can you tell us a bit more about this and why it is important?

We issued our first and, at the moment, only green bond in the late 2015, for a total amount of NOK 1.5 billion.  This is the first green bond ever to be issued by a Norwegian municipality. The use of proceeds was designated to partly finance investments in four eligible projects in accordance to our climate- and energy strategy.  All of the projects financed are necessary investments in infrastructure to handle the city’s high population growth, and it is important that this growth can be handled without increasing the city’s carbon footprint. Hence the city’s planned investments in the annual budgets are based on our ambitious climate goals, reflected in the climate- and energy strategy. The city’s investment levels are high at the moment, and a great share of these investments has to be debt financed. I believe that green bonds are debt instruments that can make a great impact on the international money markets, driving more attention towards green investment options. The city’s investments are not in any way customized to fit into a green bond, but with our climate policy, a fair share of them be in line with the green bond principles anyway.  Since the city of Oslo is a major issuer of bonds in the Norwegian market, I find it very positive that we by issuing green bonds, as one of several different instruments, have the possibility to obtain our financial needs while we can contribute to the investor awareness to climate change at the same time. In that way the green bond instrument is almost like a bonus for us. 

What are some of the key challenges for scaling up low carbon investment at a city level?

Making Oslo a zero-emissions city is a major undertaking that will only succeed through close interaction between residents, businesses, organisations, the state and the City. Smart governance and involvement will be central in achieving the climate targets. Oslo's residents and business community will be engaged through information campaigns and the planning and implementation of climate and environmental measures. Reaching the emission targets will not only reduce CO2, it will also make the city more liveable, improve air quality and open up our streets for new people friendly activities. Involvement and engagement are therefore essential to move from plans to action and, in the end, create a greener, more open and creative Oslo with room for everyone.   

The City is financing investment to a low carbon future in different ways. Significant expansions in the public transport system, in Oslo, have been financed by a toll ring whereby all vehicles entering into the city pays a toll. Recently, a revised plan for spending of toll-ring revenues (Oslo Package3) was agreed upon, with a budget of approx. EUR 8 billion for the period 2017-2036. In Oslo, 93 % of the revenue will be earmarked for investments in public transport system, improved bicycle infrastructure and to promote walking reducing the number of fatalities and serious injuries by traffic, and reducing congestion. 

You will be speaking at the Sustainable Investment Forum 2017. Could you give us a brief outline of what you will be discussing?

My talk at the Sustainable Investment Forum will touch upon Oslo experiences with green bonds. I will also talk about the introduction of climate budgets are a key instrument in ensuring that all the City of Oslo's agencies assume responsibility for climate initiatives. As of the 2017 budget, climate budgets with sector-specific emission ceilings are an integral part of the standard budget process. This will be tracked through normal business management and in quarterly and annual reporting on results and the status of climate efforts.

Finally I will present how Oslo plans to actively use public procurement to stimulate innovation in the market to provide more sustainable products and services. Oslo’s procurement budget is substantial and makes us a powerful purchaser and a potential mover of markets. This innovation will in turn be of potential benefit to other cities and municipalities across the globe. 

*Join the Mayor at the Forum on 19 September 

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