Tomorrow's Economy

Oslo has a bold vision to become the greenest and most open city in Europe

30 November 2016

New technology such as autonomous vehicles must serve a common good if people are to accept it in their daily life

Kamzy Gunaratnam

When I took office in Oslo last year at the age of 27, I was the youngest deputy mayor Oslo has ever had. Now in office, journalists and fellow politicians often ask me how my age influences my political work. Oslo is one of the fastest-growing cities in Europe, and my reply to them is that my generation is the one which is going to live the longest with the policies we decide on today. For my generation, urban development is not just politics; it’s actually our very own future.

In Oslo we have a bold vision of becoming the greenest city in Europe. And we’ve actually introduced measures for how we can achieve this ambitious goal. Rapid urbanisation is one of the global megatrends set to shape our future. Today more than half of the world’s population lives in urban centres. Urbanisation is a major force for economic development and shared prosperity.

For policymakers the challenge of combatting climate change, ageing populations and inequality is that we have to take into account the way people work, live and travel in an era of urbanisation. And we will never be able to take on climate change unless we make sure our cities are green.

But, building a green city is not just about cutting CO2 emissions, it is also about changing how we ‘think’ about urban development and how sustainable we live our lives as individuals.

This spring we will introduce a bill to remove 500 parking spaces from the streets of Oslo city centre – and we want to use this free space to build world-class bicycle paths and broader pavements. We’re already building 10 times as many bicycle paths as last year. Our goal is to double the share of people travelling by foot or bicycle over the coming years. This is a win-win for both the environment and for our citizens, who will find it easier to choose healthier ways of transportation.

We want to ‘open the city’ for everyone. Because, when it’s greener – it’s also warmer: this way people will be at the centre of attention. And, the crucial question for us is how to make the best use of the limited space in our city? A modern green city is both, carbon free and people-friendly.

This fall we also tested the first autonomous minibus in Oslo. Why? New technology and autonomous vehicles must serve a common good and higher purpose if people are to accept them in their daily life. If not, it’s just a cool new thing to be fascinated by and will then be forgotten. I believe, technologies and AVs can help us create an even greener and more inclusive city. Policy Network’s new report on autonomous vehicles offers lessons on how we can leverage this technology to reach our goals.

We all know that the challenges of the future cannot be solved by policymakers alone, or by businesses alone or by scientists alone. We need to foster and encourage dialogue between local and national stakeholders to promote connectivity and individual local policy and infrastructure solutions.

Photo credit: kirati kitirach / Shutterstock.com