European Green Capital Oslo

Cities have quite complex structures. Various number of urban planners and urban sociologists claim that they are living organisms. Organisms to survive despite the growing population, changing climatic conditions and unexpected disasters. But not every city on the Earth has the same fighting power. After the Covid-19 outbreak, we understood better the ability of cities to cope with disasters and how important it is to increase these capabilities. In this article, I want to examine a city that can be an example for many other world cities. The second most resilient city, European green capital Oslo [1] [2].

UN-Habitat City Prosperity has developed various indices to compare the resilience of cities around the world. One of them is the nexus city index. This index evaluates the capacities of cities to cope with disasters, their economic, social and physical structures. UN-Habitat conducted this study for 69 cities, 22 of which are in Europe. And Oslo is the second resilient city according to this study [2].

Nexus city index of European cities [3]

What apart Oslo from other cities and what make Oslo the most resilient? First of all, it would be better to define what a resilient city is. The origins of the term ‘resilience’ imply strength and resistance, but in its more recent applications in ecology, socio-ecological systems, disaster management and urban sustainability. It’s been well understood that resilience requires flexibility, learning and change.

The concept of resilience in cities is generally examined under three headings in the literature: climate change, terrorism and disasters. Oslo manages the climate change part very well. The city has a climate change adaptation plan for the target year 2030 in 2014. The plan aims to ensure climate resilience in Oslo, the fastest growing city in Europe. [4].

Six main goals have been set to make the city resistant to climate change in 2030. These are [4]:

Direct emissions: Oslo’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2030 will be reduced by 95 percent compared with 2009, and by 52 percent by 2023.

Climate resilience: Oslo’s capacity to withstand climate change will be strengthened towards 2030, and the city will be developed so that it is prepared for the changes projected by 2100.

Forests and land use: Oslo’s natural environment will be managed in such a way that natural carbon storage in vegetation and soil are protected and the greenhouse gas removal in forests and other vegetation increase by 2030.

Energy: Oslo’s total energy consumption in 2030 will be reduced by 10 percent compared with 2009.

Indirect emissions: Oslo’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions generated outside the municipality will be substantially lower in 2030 than in 2020.

Two more important strategies have been adopted to ensure resilience in Oslo. The first of these is to stop sprawling in the city with increasing population and to provide a compact development in the city. The second is to increase the green infrastructure. The importance of the compact city stems from the fact that the natural areas around the city are not damaged and energy efficiency can be achieved more easily in the city. The fact that the city has not spread reduces greenhouse gas emissions from transportation [5].

This compact city structure and zero emission approaches which allow the city to have a cleaner air, cause the effects of Covid-19 in the city to be less than other cities. Because many studies have revealed the relationship between air pollution and the spread of Covid-19.

The second key to ensuring urban resilience is to have a strong green infrastructure. The city was as the green capital of Europe in 2019. Managing green places great importance on this strategy. The total area of the city is 454 square kilometers, 242 square kilometers is forested areas, 8 square kilometers are parks and sports fields [6].

Strong green infrastructure provides rich biodiversity, water management and cleaner air in Oslo. In addition to these, urban green areas are important places for socializing [5].Especially for the ones, including myself who live in a city such as Istanbul that lacks green space. Oslo residents do not need to be concerned much in this regard, as it seems.

Oslo’s green infrastructure also helps citizens to continue their activities besides provide to clean air during Covid-19. Outdoor recreational activity increased by 291% during lockdown relative to a 3-year average of the same days. Studies advocate that walking reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by around 30% and all-cause mortality by 20% [8]. Therefore, this green infrastructure of Oslo has also aided city residents to protect their mental and physical health.

The country’s air quality and the amount of green space also played an important role in the fight against Covid-19. How significant the role of existence and quality of green spaces for a resilient city is has been proven in Oslo during this pandemic.

Cities are under enormous pressure and we can face unexpected problems. If they do not have enough equipment, substantial destructions can occur in cities whether we expect those problems. What we went through during the pandemic process showed us once again that the more resilient cities are, the better their ability to deal with problems. With the recognition of Norwegian policy as a national and international success during the Covid-19 period, Oslo offered us a good example.

References

[1] «Oslo European Green Capital 2019,» 2019. https://www.greencapital2019.com/.

[2] H. Schlör, S. Venghaus ve J.-F. Hake, «The FEW-Nexus city index — Measuring urban resilience,» Applied Energy, 2012.

[3] UN-HABITAT, «State Of The World’s Cities,» 2012.

[4] Oslo City Council, «Climate Strategy for City of Oslo,» 2020.

[5] E. I. Falleth, «New Trends and theories for Secured Cities:,» Lonaard Magazine, cilt 3, no. 15, 2013.

[6] https://sustainablecity-oslo-samansayip.weebly.com/.

[7] «Application Form for the European Green Capital Award 2019».

[8] Z. S. Venter, D. N. Barton, V. Gundersen1, H. F. Figari Ve M. Nowell, «Urban Nature In A Time Of Crisis: Recreational Use Of Green Space,» 2020.

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Merve Yılmaz

Merve Yılmaz

• Urban Planner •MSc student in Urban Planning at Istanbul Technical University