Thursday 21 January 2021

Norway: Railways essential to achieve climate goals

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The Norwegian government has presented its climate plan for 2021-2030, which, among other things, sets strict requirements for the transport sector. Bane NOR welcomes the plan and is pleased that the government wants further investment in the railway.

Rail is already an almost zero-emission solution, says Gry Dahl, who leads environmental work at Bane NOR. When traffic is transferred to the railways from fossil and area-intensive alternatives, a direct contribution is made to current climate goals.

The transport sector accounts for a third of greenhouse gas emissions in Norway. The railways’ share of this is vanishingly small, below 0.3%, showing that rail is already meeting emissions targets in Norway.

Solution for the future

Presented on 8 January, the Norwegian government’s new climate plan for the next ten years states that it will be easier for people to travel in a climate-friendly way. Increased electrification is planned, with clear requirements for emission cuts.

According to Dahl, the railway’s environmental benefits will not disappear, even if electrification increases. “Car traffic will continue to occupy larger areas than the railways, for example with regard to roads and charging needs in inner cities for electric cars. And, of course, the railways are far more energy efficient than car traffic”.

Improved service offerings in the transport sector will facilitate traffic growth, whether by road or rail. Development of large road projects will increase emissions, while railway development will reduce them by moving traffic from road to rail.

This means that the railways must be an area of focus, according to the Norwegian Society for Nature Conservation. Holger Schlaupitz, Head of Department at the union, recently told Norwegian media that more investment in railways and better ferry connections are needed. He also stressed the need to upgrade and improve roads and avoid developments that also result in increased traffic. Schlaupitz added that it is important to avoid major encroachments on bogs and forest areas, which bind carbon.

Potential for improvement

Although rail is by far the most climate-friendly mode of transport, it is also responsible for emissions. Operation and maintenance of diesel locomotives results in emissions in some areas, and constructing new railways also emits large quantities of greenhouse gas. Bane NOR is working actively to reduce these emissions and has concrete and ambitious goals in this respect.

“There is no doubt that we can do more to reduce our own emissions. We do this by emphasising climate and the environment when we design, by setting requirements for construction implementation, and by having efficient logistics. We can also provide ecological compensation in large projects, as we do on the joint project Ringeriksbanen and E 16, and Dovrebanen”, says Gry Dahl. “I am also pleased to see that the market is moving in the right direction, with emission-free construction sites and access to low-carbon materials”.

(Source: Bane NOR)

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The railways play an important role in creating a more climate-friendly society © Øivind Haug, Bane NOR