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Climate change is a pressing issue faced by mankind. It has caught a lot of steam recently, and if not found solutions which will work in a sustainable manner, the repercussions would be irreversible. Countries around the world are working together individually as well as collectively to tackle the issue of climate change. Norway, the land of the midnight sun, is a country rich in non-renewable resources whose economy boomed due to its oil and natural gas wealth. Over the years, the country has become conscious of the growing environmental issues and has turned its back on fossil fuels. Europe's largest oil producer is on its way to become the world's greenest car fleet by 2050. 

If environmental issues like pollution are not overcome, the adverse effects of climate change on Norway will be profound or for that matter, for any other country in the world. Norway is a heavy producer of hydropower, through the state owned organization Statkraft; which owns nine largest hydroelectric plants as well as holds a major position in the international energy market. Furthermore, the country is paving the way to wind power and a zero-emission transport system.  

Norwegians are moving to electric vehicles faster than anyone else on the planet. More than a third of new cars are fully electric or plug-in hybrids. The country has over 50,000 EVs (Electric Vehicles) on the road and leaves behind the U.S. and Japan. The government has suggested that there may be no gasoline or diesel-powered cars sold in the country by 2050. 

But how was this achievable and what steps were taken to ensure the emergence of EV's with a good success rate?  Since the early 1990's a broad coalition of political parties has gradually introduced "The Incentive Programme" wherein they initiate a policy to encourage the adoption of more and more EVs through Zero emission incentives.

 

The zero emission incentives include:

 

  • No purchase/import taxes
  • Exemption from 25% VAT on purchase
  • Low annual road tax
  • No charges on toll roads or ferries
  • Privileged and free parking
  • Access to bus lanes
  • 50 % reduced company car tax
  • Exemption from 25% VAT on leasing
  • Public charging station

 

The Incentive Programme shall be revised and adjusted in accordance to the market development in the coming years. Until 2018, the tax incentive will stay in place and then revised later. There is a probability that the free toll roads will be replaced with a new system having differentiated prices depending on the CO2 and NOx emissions. The idea put forward by major political parties is that it should always be economically beneficial to choose zero and low emission cars over high emission cars. This is said to be obtained from the "polluter pays principle" in the car tax system. According to this high taxes are to be set for high emission cars and lower taxes for low and zero emission cars. This introduction of high taxes on high emission cars will help finance the incentives for zero or low emission cars, without any loss in revenue. The goal to have all new cars (zero or low emission) sold by 2025 by The Norwegian Parliament, is ambitious but at same time feasible with the right policy measures. It can reach its goal through a strong green tax system based on the "polluter pays principle" and not through a ban on the high emission vehicles.

The Norwegian Government’s efforts to curb more and more conventional cars on the roads is strong and effective, as figures from Norway’s Road Traffic Information Council (OFV) showed that electric cars represented 17.6% of new vehicle registrations in January and hybrid cars 33.8%, totaling 51.4%. Due to Norway’s amazing work in hydroelectricity, it generates almost all of its electricity from abundant and cheap hydropower, and the switch to EVs supplements the reduction of greenhouse gases. This is a key part of the country’s efforts to meet its UN climate goal of reducing emissions by at least 40% by 2030. Norway is set to become the first country in the world to be fully powered by clean electricity, while China becomes the country with largest number of EVs on the roads.

Transportation is responsible for the quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions in Europe. While the industrial emissions have dropped since 1990, transportation emissions have increased by 9% including aviation. Another aspect that has aided the boom of EVs across the world is The Paris Climate Accord, 2015. The follow-up agreements specify that every signatory country proposes national goals for climate protection, including for the first time - the transportation sector. Norway, along with the Netherlands, Europe’s second-biggest per capita buyer of EVs, wants to end sales of new cars that run only on fossil fuels by 2025. Germany, which also subsidizes EVs, has said it will ban new petrol and diesel car sales by 2030. Falling prices for EVs and recent technological advancements, many of which led by Tesla, have led to a proliferation in the usage of EVs. The second generation of EVs is in production now, they are going to be lighter and longer-range automobiles compared to those launched five years ago.

 If we look further in the matter of conventional vehicles (CVs) and electric vehicles, the latter offers a potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions if coupled with low carbon electricity sources. At the same time, EVs may not be the ultimate solution for the greenhouse gas emissions or say climate change globally. Therefore it can very well be said that EVs might not fully take over the conventional vehicles in the future unless low carbon electricity sources are established all over the world. The world today might not be sure of what future holds, but so far it seems that the surge in electric vehicles is going to prove positive for Norway and other major countries looking forward to achieving environmental benefits through electric vehicles.

 

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Written By Pragya Kapur

BA ( Political Science and Sociology) student at Maitreyi college, Delhi University.

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