Today more than half of us live in urban areas, and by 2050 this number will rise to 70 per cent. Many cities across the world are taking bold steps towards reducing their carbon footprint and making better use of their resources. Oslo, however, has a particularly ambitious outlook. It has pledged to be totally carbon-neutral by 2050, and Norwegians from politicians to business people to ordinary families have thrown themselves behind this goal with energy and dedication.
Air pollution from Oslo's public and private transport was until recently on the rise, accounting for 50 per cent of the city's total CO2 emissions. But that is beginning to change. Under a new initiative at the city's Bekkelaget sewage treatment plant, biomethane, a byproduct of the treatment process, is captured, cleaned and then used to power Oslo's buses - 65 of which now run on biogas from sewage. The result is a cleaner fuel and considerably quieter buses. A new plant is also being built, which will generate biogas from the city's food waste. It is due to produce the energy equivalent of four million litres of diesel fuel - enough to power 200 buses. The residue from the process will be turned into safe, odour-free fertiliser.
Oslo is also slashing its energy use with the help of intelligent street lighting. Throughout most of the city the lights are governed by an astronomic clock which follows daylight hours. These lights run for most of the time at 50 per cent power. In other areas, information from light meters and traffic sensors is combined by a central computer to determine the optimal lighting. So in the city centre, where people are still out and about, it could be bright - but out in the suburbs the lights might be down to 30 per cent.
Sinead O'Shea travels to Oslo to meet the people who are shifting their current lifestyle patterns to embrace a greener way of life.
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Source: Al Jazeera