08.04.2020 (Caucasian Journal). Caucasian Journal continues its new program of interviews with high-level practitioners from Western Europe who share knowledge in areas most relevant to our region. Today we talk about big city problems.
How quickly an industrial city can transform into a leader in environment protection and clean hi-tech? Which secret city management mechanisms are needed? How do citizens participate?
Raymond JOHANSEN, Governing Mayor of Oslo — European Green Capital 2019, kindly agreed to give interview to us, but due to COVID crisis it was postponed. We are thankful to Anita LINDAHL TROSDAHL, Project Manager of Oslo European Green Capital 2019 at the Mayor’s Office, who proposed to answer most of our questions.
Alexander KAFFKA, editor-in-chief of CJ: In 2019 your city — Oslo — was awarded the title of Europe’s Green Capital. Congratulations! Do you think that greening of Oslo is your most important achievement?
ANITA LINDAHL TROSDAHL: I am very proud of Oslo’s European Green Capital title. This is a result of a long-term effort from citizens, companies and public sector. I believe that politicians in Oslo have made many good decisions over two-three decades. Recently we continue to see good environmental results. The buses run more frequently, the car traffic is going down and the air is cleaner. Greenhouse gas emissions are going down, and investment are made to ensure that they continue to go down. In addition to green policies, I am very proud that Oslo is home to every fourth new green job created in Norway. A true sustainable city must be green, socially inclusive and economically viable.
AK: Air quality is a very important concern for big cities in South Caucasian region. In the chart you can see how Georgia, Armenia, and Azerbaijan rate in Global Environmental Performance Index (EPI) in comparison to each other and to Norway. Do I understand correctly that your Municipality is legally responsible for keeping good air quality in the city? If air pollution reaches a certain level, it means you commit a crime?
ALT: Norway is legally responsible for keeping in line with the EU air quality directive. The municipalities are the implementing body for many of the measures relating to air quality. In 2015 the EFTA Court ruled that Norway has failed to comply with its obligations. There’s not a punishment as such, but the Government has to step up its actions to improve the situation. Since 2015, the combined national and local efforts have helped to improve the air quality in Oslo significantly.
Norway is responsible vis-à-vis the EU/EFTA system, but the national law is applicable for all municipalities. Therefore Oslo is responsible to keep within the EU limits, but it will be Norway who has to answer to the EU/EFTA system is there is a breach. If Oslo’s air quality is getting too bad, the municipality breaks the law — but ultimately it is the state that has to answer for all breaches in Norway. Does that make sense?
AK: Yes, it does, thank you. Could you summarize what exactly does it mean to be a green capital? What was done to win this title?