Pledges by countries to reduce carbon emissions have become more common in the face of a growing climate change threat. Too often these pledges end up being empty promises though as national leaders return home to face apathy or outright opposition to change. Norway, for its part, is doing something about it.
While American politicians continue to debate with nearly every scientist in the world about whether climate change is even real, Norway is implementing a plan to cut its transport emissions in half and become carbon neutral by 2050. There are several steps already identified to achieve this goal, including expanding bike paths, avoiding growth in the use of cars, and increasing vehicle taxes. Low-emission requirements are being introduced for everything from trucks to ferries. Additionally, Norway will buy greenhouse credits to offset emissions.
If putting your money where your mouth is demonstrates commitment to a project then Norway is seriously committed to reducing its contribution to climate change. The government recently announced plans to invest 8 billion Norwegian Kroner (that’s just short of USD $1 billion) on an extensive network of bike paths. Plans call for 10 two-lane cross-country bike routes that will make it safer, faster and more convenient for residents to cycle anywhere they need to go.
The idea is to make it easy and safe for people to commute by bike so they can park their cars. A goal of having as many as 20 percent of trips taken on bike by 2030 has been established.
Needless to say, the plan is not without critics. One argument is that winter will prove too much of an obstacle. Of course, people around the world do ride in winter—especially when they don’t have to worry about competing with commuters and snow plows. Another argument against the plan is that Norway has plenty of hills outside of its cities. Again, any experienced cyclist knows that hills are not a problem so long as strength and endurance improve quickly with regular cycling. If this plan works, Norway may have some of the fittest and hardiest commuters in the world within a matter of months.
Skeptics also argue that the government should instead invest the money in public transportation, particularly since cycling is not as popular in Norway as it is in some neighboring countries. The theory though is that with safe and convenient bicycle paths more people will be willing to cycle.
Norway’s push for cycling as a transportation alternative may be innovative, but the country is not alone in aggressively trying to reduce carbon emissions. Copenhagen, for example, has “smart” traffic lights that give preference to cyclists and buses instead of cars. You can just imagine how that would go over in some American cities.