Norway is often cited as an example of a non-Middle Eastern nation with a large part of its GDP based on oil. However it appears that the Scandinavian country is seeking to move its economy beyond black gold, starting with domestic consumption. Lawmakers from across the political spectrum have reportedly come together to ban all fossil fuel cars in a move that will set a precedent for other nations around the world. Some right-wing members of the Norwegian Parliament are have denied that a binding deal has been agreed to but the electoral arithmetic makes this proposal a distinct possibility.
According to the reports coming out of Oslo, politicians have agreed that all cars built to run on fossil fuels will be banned from the country. At this stage it is unclear how such a policy would be implemented however if the bill is passed Norway would be the first country in the world to ban all fossil fuel-run cars. The bill specifically calls for 100 per cent of Norway’s cars to be running on green energy by 2025 but there is no reference to other types of vehicles like buses, lorries, or motorcycles. Be that as it may, the bill would be a massive step forward for Norway and would dramatically improve the country’s air quality.
In Norway in March 2016 electric cars made up 33.5% of the market share which is an impressive statistic, however it’s worth pointing out that this statistic is in reference to new cars being sold. The reason that the new announcement about all cars is important as this would essentially criminalise all fossil-fuel cars by 2025. At first it may appear that this is a heavy handed approach but the Norwegian government has provided a huge number of incentives for people to purchase electric cars and as a consequence the electric car market has expanded rapidly. By putting a time limit on transitioning away from fossil fuel cars, the Norwegian government is making a bold step forward that will encourage people to make the switch.
As I mentioned there are some right-wing MPs that are disputing whether a deal was reached but the reports are promising. Liberal Party MP Ola Elverstuen spoke to the Norwegian newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv and claimed that his fellow Liberals are working in collaboration with the Christian Democrats, the Conservative Party and the right-wing Progress Party to get the bill passed. Irrespective of the right-wing MPs opposition it is likely that many of the left-wing opposition parties will support this legislation and thus enable it to pass with a large majority. To put this into context the Norwegian Parliament s comprised of 169 seats, meaning that all legislation requires the support of 85 MPs. All the opposition parties have a commitment to reducing carbon emissions and this is 73 MPs in total. With the support of the Liberals and the Christian Democrats the number rises to 92. Even if all Conservative Party and Progress Party MPs voted against this legislation, which wouldn’t happen as many from these two parties are collaborating on this bill, it would still pass.
Although this is a good step forward this story needs to be put into a wider context. Norway has around 2.5 million cars registered in the country, which is a large number, but in terms of global numbers this is minuscule. To put this is into context in China, the world’s biggest carbon polluter, there are 154 million cars with an overwhelming majority of these vehicles run on fossil fuels. Indeed, in 2014 China gained another 17 million new cars. The point I’m making is that whilst these measures are positive and should be celebrated, the wider situation should be considered. The growth of China and India’s carbon emissions is such that unless a major polluting nation like Britain, France, or the United States follows suit the net impact will be negligible.
Norway needs to be commended for this positive step forward and it can set a precedent for other European nations, however without substantial action from other countries this measure the result will be pure tokenism. The world’s biggest polluters must also act to significantly reduce their carbon emissions because if only smaller nations act climate change will not be prevented. If the United States or Britain wished to enact similar laws then this story would be a whole different kettle of fish, but the fact remains that the world cannot dine out on the bold moves of small countries like Norway. So whilst the Norwegian government should enact this legislation, it must also spur on other governments around the world to drastically cut back on carbon emissions.