Oslo: A model for sustainable mobility

With the goal to become the world’s first emissions-free city by 2030, the City of Oslo is pioneering sustainable mobility across all modes of public and private transport.

The 2019 European Green Capital, Oslo was the first global city to set a dedicated Climate Budget (2017). Its pioneering approach to mainstreaming climate into local government decision-making processes underpins the city’s Climate and Energy Strategy. 

Under the Climate Strategy for Oslo towards 2030, walking, cycling, and public transport are prioritised as the city’s future transportation modes. By the end of 2023, Oslo plans to operate a fully electric public transportation network, with a long-term goal to become the world’s first emissions-free city by 2030.

The challenge

In its 2020 annual report, Ruter, the public transport authority for Oslo, reported that 50 per cent of the city’s emissions were being generated by road traffic. In terms of direct emissions, Oslo hopes to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 95 per cent compared to 2009, by 2030; with a partial target of 52 per cent by the end of 2023. 

In 2020, emissions totalled 1.1 million tonnes, which represented a 10 per cent drop on the 1.2 million tonnes recorded in 1990, which falls short of the original 2016 goal of halving emissions to 600,000 tonnes by 2020. However, 2020 emissions were 25 per cent below the 1.5 million tonnes peak recorded in 2009.

The response

In 2017, the City of Oslo initiated a pilot scheme to remove 350 downtown parking spots with the rationale that people would find alternative ways to get around the city. By 2020, more than 1,000 parking spots had been removed and replaced with cycle lanes, pavements and green spaces. This has been expanded to cover key locations such as schools and parks.  In addition, a number of main thoroughfares are designated as car-free. 

The installation of a charging infrastructure for electric cars, trucks and buses is being fast-tracked. In 2022, the city’s Climate and Energy Fund launched a grant to support publicly available fast charging locations for heavy vehicles. Funding rounds for the installation of 28 fast-charging stations for electric trucks and buses, with the city bearing up to 80 per cent of installation costs, saw the first six charging points for heavy-duty electric trucks installed at the Port of Oslo in June 2023. For private vehicle owners, a limited number of downtown parking spots are dedicated for electric vehicles and people of determination. 

The City of Oslo is also planning to introduce a new downtown zero-emission zone for vehicles in downtown Oslo. A low-emission zone has been in place since 2017 under the Oslo Charging Scheme. The implications for public transport mean that as existing transport contracts expire they are being replaced by new stringent contracts that stipulate emission-free services as a minimum requirement.

The replacement of the city’ diesel-fuelled buses with 450 electric alternatives is part of a US$47 million long-term investment, with 200 vehicles already in operation. In April 2023, a total of 183 Solaris Urbino electric buses were also added to Oslo’s Unibuss-operated fleet. Oslo’s public transit portfolio also includes a network of , electrified trains, trams, and ferries. The city, which has a population of 700,000 is also a global leader when it comes to the frequency of public transport stops, with 586 stops per 100,000 people. 

Often referred to as the electric vehicle capital of the world, the Norwegian government has offered financial incentives, including waiving import duties and car registration fees, to encourage the switch from conventional to electric model vehicles. In 2020, 54 per cent of total passenger cars registered were electric.

A pro-bicycle city, Oslo launched a dedicated cycle strategy back in 2015, with subsequent significant investment into expansion of its city-wide bicycle lane network. The city has over 50 kilometres of dedicated cycle lanes with traffic growing by 77 per cent between 2014 and 2020; with a modal share target of 16 per cent by 2025. In addition, the city bike network  comprises approximately 3,000 bicycles located across 270 stations. 


In 2019, City of Oslo recorded zero pedestrian or cyclist fatalities; a 10 per cent increase in retail foot traffic following the banning of cars from the city centre; and rise in residential real estate demand for downtown properties. Carbon emissions also decreased for the decade 2009-2019, dropping from 1.44 million tonnes of CO2 to 1.14 million tonnes. The city also jumped from eighth position in the 2018 Arcadis Sustainable Cities Index to number one ranking in 2022. 

City of Oslo, Statistics Norway, European Cyclists’ Federation, Arcadis