Why the US should follow in Norway's footsteps on its path to net zero
Updated: Mar 21, 2022
Written By: Wiley McGowan
Edited By: Jumana Khafagi
"On the path to net-zero, there needs to be an understanding of the undeniable intersection between the economy and the environment."
By 2050, the International Panel on Climate Change, aims to reduce carbon emissions to net zero, giving the world an opportunity to limit the global temperature rise to 1.5°C. One of the primary methods to achieve this objective is through the electrification of transport. The processes and policy changes involved in electrification can not be undertaken as a top-down initiative where average citizens will passively subscribe to this new innovation to save the planet. In the United States, public opinion polls show that approximately 70% of Americans would not pay $10 a month more in electric bills to combat climate change (Forbes, 2021). This indicates that the electrification process can only be feasible if there is a “buy-in”, not just for leaders, but for the average citizens that these policies would affect. However, the question remains, how can leaders create fertile grounds for the electrification process and foster a scenario where ordinary citizens are willing to adhere to electrification policies? The data shows us that for the general public the ideal of “saving the planet” falls short in convincing them to increase their economic expenditure. On the other hand, one can look to Norway as a success story for recognizing and addressing the need to balance economic and environmental solutions. Policy-makers have to strategically maneuver around this relationship to benefit both the planet and the general public.
Throughout the ongoing environmental crisis the general consensus is that avoiding catastrophic climate change means getting as close to zero carbon emissions as possible (Vox, 2022). This aim of zero emissions is achievable through electrification. Norway has done an exemplary job at accomplishing this feat as 60% of new cars sold are electric vehicles (EVs), compared to 2% in the U.S. (Forbes, 2022). It's not just cars that have gone electric, but a network of other modes of public transportation.
Although it is widely recognized that curbing climate change must be a collective effort, the U.S. marks a critical point of comparison to Norway. As a global hegemon – culturally, financially, and technologically– they are situated in a unique role of influence and power. So far, their position of dominance has yielded disastrous outcomes for the climate. If the U.S. were to successfully establish a net zero-carbon lifestyle amongst its citizens, then other nations would also begin to implement green initiatives (The Atlantic, 2022). So what can the U.S. glean from Norway’s success? One of the key takeaways is that government policy is critical – the speed of the transition to EVs needs to directly correlate with incentives for purchasers. Norway achieved this feat by making EVs affordable for the general public (Forbes, 2021). Subsequently, while the cost of EVs was lowered to affordable rates, taxes were increased on classic cars (Forbes, 2021). Norway, through government policy, created a situation in which choosing to electrify was not only morally right, but it was also financially sound for the average citizen. For environmental initiatives to be implemented at a local level they have to be supported by economic policies which work in favor of the average citizen who often carries the financial burden of going green.
Greenhouse gas emissions are typically accompanied by a rise in price (Forbes, 2021). However, “as mass production continues, the price of EVs will fall and soon be cheaper than gasoline cars” (Forbes, 2021). The Biden administration has an incredible opportunity to create a win-win scenario for the economy and environment through the electrification of transport. Countries can use the example of Norway to model their environmental initiatives as it is imperative that there be an intersection between environmental solutions and economic gain, especially in the case of electrifying transport.
On the path to net-zero, there needs to be an understanding of the undeniable intersection between the economy and the environment. Given that combating climate change is a collective effort, the solutions can not solely be rooted in top-down policy initiatives that serve to benefit the environment. Environmental and economic intersectionality is not only necessary, it also holds incredible opportunity. Norway, exemplified that when the needs of average citizens are taken into account, the outcomes are monumentous. Policymakers have to ensure that the costs of the electrification process are not too high for the general public, or else reducing carbon emissions to net zero can not occur.