There may not be much teeth in a new local law approved by Oslo’s new city government that will forbid owners of diesel-powered vehicles from driving on days with high levels of air pollution. Oslo police would need to call in re-enforcements to enforce the law, and are reluctant to do so.
“We won’t be using extra resources on this,” Oslo Police Chief Hans Sverre Sjøvold told newspaper Aftenposten. Motorists who defy the law and drive their diesel vehicles anyway face fines of NOK 1,500 (USD 175) if caught while driving on a street under Oslo’s jurisdiction, but they may not need to fear prosecution.
Questions of awareness
One problem is that many streets in Oslo are acutally under state, not city, jurisdiction. Sjøvold also stressed that before the police can fine anyone, it’s important that motorists are aware of the law being enforced.
“There are challenges tied to this,” he said. “We must, for example, be sure that the street on which the potential offender is driving is in fact under city jurisdiction, that the driver knows that. Also that the driver is aware of a prohibition on that particular day.”
Lan Marie Nguyen Berg of the Greens Party, now in charge of transportation for the City of Oslo, was undaunted. “We had a good meeting with the police (last week) and agree to cooperate on how this (the diesel prohibition) would be handled if we need to impose it on days with acute air pollution,” Berg told Aftenposten. “The police must answer for how they will enforce it.”
Nearly 300,000 motorists liable
There are an estimated 127,000 diesel-powered vehicles in Oslo alone, plus another 147,000 in Oslo’s surrounding county of Akershus. Among those protesting the new potential driving restrictions are truckers and delivery companies using diesel vehicles.
They may be allowed to drive anyway, with the new law only affecting owners of private (non-commercial) diesel cars. Transport experts confirm that a ban on driving diesel vehicles will reduce air pollution more effectively than a huge hike in tolls or other taxes on diesel vehicles.
One proposal from consulting firm COWI has suggested that all diesel vehicles except for the newest models should pay tolls of NOK 60 (USD 7) to drive into or through Oslo. Toll levels into Oslo are currently up for negotiation between the governments of Oslo and Akershus.