Officially known as The Kingdom of Norway, Norway is a Nordic country located on the Scandinavian Peninsula. Its capital and largest city is Oslo. In November 2020, the population was just over 5.3 million people.
In late 2020, Norway experienced “Good” air quality with a US AQI reading of just 28. This is based on the recommendations of the World Health Organisation (WHO).
In 2019, Oslo achieved the WHO target figure of 10 µg/m³ for clean air for 10 months of the year. For the remaining two months, the air was classified as “Good” with figures between 10 and 12 µg/m³. It also achieved the WHO target for the two previous years with levels of 7.4 µg/m³ in 2017 and 8.2 µg/m³ in 2018.
Good air quality is very important for people's health and well-being. Most cities in Norway are experiencing population growth and increased urbanisation, which may contribute to more pollution in the cities. In order to meet these challenges, there is a need for more knowledge about how we ensure sustainable urban development and good air quality in the years to come. However, every year, approximately 1,700 people in Norway die as a result of high levels of the finest particulate matter, PM2.5, according to the European Environment Agency (EEA).
Norway is among the countries in Europe that have the lowest risk of premature death as a result of local air pollution. Poor air quality leads to serious health problems in the population. Both national and local authorities have for several years actively worked to improve air quality in cities and towns. The measurements now show that the air in Norway's cities has improved.
In Norway, air pollution is far more prevalent during the cold winter months. This is partly due to the fact that this is when you have the highest emissions from several sources, such as wood-burning, road dust from studded tyre use and exhaust emissions when using a cold engine in freezing temperatures. In addition, meteorological inversions occur which result in poorer dispersal conditions in winter. Years with many and long inversion periods will typically develop higher pollution levels than years with few inversion episodes.
Particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) are the major substances that contribute to local air pollution in Norwegian cities and towns. Particulate matter is small airborne particles. Airborne dust can occur during combustion, either in engines or stoves and fireplaces or come from road dust from tyres, asphalt wear and brake pads and from exhaust emissions. Studded tyres are worse than standard tyres but are widely used in Scandinavian countries that experience heavy snowfall in the winter months. Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) occurs when oxygen and nitrogen in the air react with each other during combustion at high temperatures, mainly during the combustion of fossil fuels such as oil, diesel and gas. Long-distance pollution from other European countries also contributes.
In Norway, there are three different management goals for local air quality: legally binding limit values, air quality criteria and national goals for local air quality. The limit values in the Pollution Control Regulations shall ensure a minimum air quality level. The air quality criteria from the National Institute of Public Health and the Norwegian Environment Agency indicate levels that are safe for everyone, including the most vulnerable groups in society. National goals are the government's future goals for air quality. In a report published in 2020, the local agencies recommended a further tightening of the limit values from 2022.
In 2019 the most polluted city in Norway was Sarpsborg, Ostfold with a US AQI level of 42. Bodo, Nordland was the cleanest with a US AQI level of 16.
All Norwegian municipalities that measured air quality remained within the limit value for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in 2018.
All municipalities, except Elverum and Hamar, also remained below the limit value for particulate matter (PM10). These two municipalities broke the limit value for airborne dust for the first time.
Through laws and regulations, the government ensures that the municipalities have the necessary tools needed to take care of the air quality for the residents. Recently, the municipalities have received several ways of assistance. They can introduce queue pricing or increased tolls on days with high air pollution to discourage traffic and therefore reduce it. Municipalities can now set environmental requirements for taxis and or set different toll rates according to how much the vehicles pollute. The Norwegian Environment Agency has also compiled an overview of available measures to reduce emissions from wood-burning stoves.
Norway's aim is to reduce local air pollution so that general health is not harmed. In addition to the national targets for various pollutants in outdoor air, the authorities have set minimum requirements for the quality of outdoor air to promote human health, but these minimum requirements, or limit values are regularly exceeded in several Norwegian cities.
Norway was convicted in the EFTA (European Free Trade Association) Court for violating the Air Quality Directive in 2015. Since then, several municipalities have made concerted efforts to improve the local air quality in their region. There was also an increase in municipalities that began to measure airborne dust.
These municipalities are recommended to take air quality into account when planning the use of certain areas within their locality. It can be important for the construction of roads or the location of homes, industry and businesses. Guidelines have been drawn up for the treatment of air quality. These are state recommendations for how air quality should be handled in the municipalities' spatial planning.
But even though road traffic is increasing and Norwegians are getting more cars, according to the Norwegian Environment Agency, there has generally been a decrease in emissions of nitrogen dioxide (NOx) in the last 30 years. The long-term measures of increasing the proportion of exhaust-free cars, reducing traffic and facilitating cyclists and public transport may thus seem to yield results. In addition to the fact that there has been a significant reduction in emissions from heavy vehicles, as well as more electric and hybrid cars on Norwegian roads and lower emissions from passenger cars that use fossil fuels.
People who are exposed to air pollution can become ill or their existing medical problem worsens. This primarily applies to diseases of the respiratory tract such as asthma, COPD and cardiovascular disease. There is also growing evidence that air pollution can affect the nervous system and cause diseases such as diabetes. All people can be affected by air pollution, but some groups are more vulnerable than others. Particularly vulnerable groups are those who are already ill, pregnant women, children and the elderly. In addition, it can be unfortunate for foetal development that pregnant women breathe in polluted air. The health risks related to local air pollution depends on how high the concentration of the polluting substances is and how long the exposure to the substances is.
A new nationwide service shows the air quality of Norway in real-time, the rest of the day and the next 24 hours. You can find out if there is little, moderate, high or very high air pollution where you live or stay. Additionally, vulnerable groups are able to receive health and activity advice. The service has been developed in collaboration between the Norwegian Meteorological Institute, the Norwegian Public Roads Administration, the Norwegian Directorate of Health, the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the Norwegian Environment Agency.
Excessive concentrations of particulate matter (PM2.5 and PM10) and nitrogen dioxide (NO2) can be harmful to human health, but children, the elderly and people with existing respiratory and cardiovascular problems are particularly vulnerable. "Air quality in Norway" therefore includes information on health effects and health advice for the population in general and for vulnerable groups in particular.
The health councils mean that people who are vulnerable to air pollution have the opportunity to adapt their activities depending on the different levels of air pollution. The notification service can thus contribute to reducing negative health effects in the population.
On the website, Air Quality in Norway high-resolution digital maps can be seen and you can search and see the air condition today and two days ahead, visualized with different colours. Purple marks very high air pollution, red and yellow are high and moderate, while green is low.
It warns of fine (PM2.5) particulate matter and the sum of coarse and fine particulate matter (PM10) which mainly originates from wood burning and road traffic, nitrogen dioxide (NO2) from cars with internal combustion engines, and long-distance ground-level ozone (O3).
No country in the world has more electric cars per capita than Norway. At the end of October 2019, more than 250,000 electric cars had been registered here, which corresponds to about nine per cent of the total Norwegian car fleet. The electric car Nissan Leaf was Norway's best-selling car in 2018. So far this year, the electric car Tesla Model 3 is Norway's best-selling electric car. Electric cars represent 43 per cent of new car sales in 2019, while 10 per cent of new city buses are electric. In addition, there are a few cars (about 30) powered by hydrogen. In October 2019, 3,742 new electric cars were registered.
First and foremost, exemptions from the traditionally high one-off taxes and value-added tax make it economically advantageous to buy electric cars in Norway. Most other European countries do not have similar taxes and thus do not have the same opportunity to offer financial benefits when buying an electric car. In addition, electric cars have a number of advantages in traffic, they are exempt from tolls on national roads, and they also qualify for free or reduced ferry fees. In most city centres free parking is offered as a bonus. It is up to local authorities to decide whether they want to provide free passage of toll stations, use of public transport and free parking. A national rule has been established which ensures that zero-emission cars do not pay more than half the price of the normal fare.
Looking to the future, it is intended that new passenger cars and light vans will be zero-emission vehicles (electric cars and hydrogen cars) from 2025. The same year as new city buses will be zero-emission vehicles or use biogas. By 2030, new heavier vans, 75 per cent of new long-distance buses and 50 per cent of new lorries will be zero-emission vehicles.
An important reason for the high sales of electric cars in Norway is that they also have good charging options. To date, the Norwegian authorities have invested around NOK 150 million in charging infrastructure, mainly through support from ENOVA and Transnova. Until 1st November 2019, 2,584 charging stations have been established in Norway with a total of 14,737 charging points.
Together with electric cars, small electric vehicles, such as electric scooters are on the increase. In Norway, there are different types of small electric vehicles. Examples are electric scooters, larger two-wheelers, smaller unicycles and standing boards and electric skateboards. To qualify as a bicycle, the weight must be less than 70 kilograms, it must be less than 120 cms long and narrower than 85 cms. They must also have a restrictor fitted which governs their speed. A maximum of 20 km/h is permitted for the vehicle to be still classed as a bicycle. If any of these conditions are not met, then the vehicle will be prohibited from pedestrianised areas and cycle tracks.
There is no age requirement for the use of small electric vehicles, and they can be used in the same areas as regular bicycles. There is also no requirement to register the vehicle or take out liability insurance on it. It is not mandatory to wear a bicycle helmet, but we encourage all cyclists to wear this.