Norway streets grow quieter

A silent revolution has transformed driving in Norway. Eerily quiet vehicles are ubiquitous on the fjord-side roads and mountain passes of this wealthy European nation of 5.3 million. Some 30% of all new cars sport plug-in cables rather than gasoline tanks, compared with 2% across Europe overall and 1-2% in the U.S. As countries around the world, including China, the world’s biggest auto market try to encourage more people to buy electric cars to fight climate change, Norway’s success has one key driver — the government. It offered big subsidies and perks that it is now due to phase out, but only so long as electric cars remain attractive to buy compared with traditional ones. “It should always be cheaper to have a zero emissions car than a regular car,” says Climate and Environment Minister Ola Elvestuen, who helped push through a commitment to have only sell zero-emissions cars sold in Norway by 2025. The plan supports Norway’s CO2 reduction targets under the 2015 Paris climate accord, which nations last agreed rigorous rules for to ensure emissions goals are met. To help sales, the Norwegian government waived hefty vehicle import duties and registration and sales taxes for buyers of electric cars. Owners don’t have to pay road tolls, and get free use of ferries and bus lanes in congested city centres. Higher taxes These perks, which are costing the government almost $1 billion this year, are being phased out in 2021, though any road tolls and fees would be limited to half of what gasoline car owners must pay. Gradually, subsidies for electric cars will be replaced by higher taxes on traditional cars. Mr. Elvestuen pledges that the incentives for electric vehicles will be adjusted in such a way that it does not scupper the 2025 target. “What is important is that our aim is not just to give incentives,” he says. “It is that we are taxing emissions from regular cars.” Using taxes to encourage consumers to shift to cleaner energy can be tricky for a government protests erupted in France this autumn over a fuel tax that hurt the livelihood of poorer families, especially in rural areas where driving is often the only means of transportation. In this sense, Norway is an outlier. The country is very wealthy after exporting for decades the kind of fossil fuels the world is trying to wean itself off of. Incomes are higher than the rest of Europe, as are prices. Norway has pledged to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by 40% by 2030, compared with 1990 levels. The country has work to do — by 2017, emissions were up 3% compared to the 1990 baseline. Cutting emissions from road transport will allow Norway to reduce the amount it has to spend buying up emissions certificates from other European countries to meet its target. The savings are likely to run into billions, potentially balancing out the cost of subsidising electric cars.

Source : https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-life/norway-streets-grow-quieter/article25785689.ece

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