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Sustainable holiday destinations: Fjords, Norway

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The Fjords of Norway are a collection of unique, stunning and diverse natural landscapes, from mountains to waterfalls. Its Viking heritage can be experienced through active holidays and national designated wildlife routes.

Situated in the western part of the country, the Norwegian Fjords are broken down into four main counties: Rogaland, Sogn and Fjordane, Hordaland and Møre and Romsdal.

One of Norway’s most popular, natural and iconic tourist attractions, the Pulpit Rock (Preikestolen) is located in the Rogaland region. It draws in excess of 150,000 visitors each year, who hike up to the top of the steep cliff. In Rogaland, you can find Norway’s fourth largest city of Stavanger, which in 2008 was selected as a European Capital of Culture, alongside Liverpool. It offers visitors the thrill of magnificent scenery and exciting culinary and cultural experiences – represented in the form of industrial museums and festivals.

Its rapid surge in growth over the last century is due to production of and an overreliance on fossil fuels. The city is widely considered to be the centre of Norway’s offshore oil, gas and energy industries. Multinational companies such as Statoil, its largest oil company, operate from their headquarters in Stavanger.

However, with regards to the nation’s renewable energy drive and sustainable transport transition, Norway was ranked in the top three countries to deliver secure, accessible and sustainable energy in a 2013 index report. Also, Norway is experiencing an electric car boom, with electric vehicles outselling conventional cars.

In the county of Hordaland you will find Norway’s second city, Bergen. Here, you will be able to uncover the historic harbour district of Bryggen. It is a listed UNESCO World Heritage site and one of north Europe’s oldest port trading towns. In addition, it played a prominent role during the medieval period as part of the Hanseatic League. Over centuries many of the distinctive urban wooden structures in the port were damaged and destroyed by fires. Now only 58 timber buildings remain – which have all been preserved, excavated and restored to their former glory.

Railways make the beautiful landscape of the Fjords of Norway readily accessible. On the Bergen Railway you can travel from the capital Oslo to Bergen across unforgettable scenery, mountains terrain, and one of the largest wilderness areas in Europe – the Hardanger plateau. Opened in 1909, it is the highest railway line in Northern Europe of which the highest point on the line is Finse.

Similarly, the Flam Railway is another family favourite line. Opened in 1940, it transported over 600,000 passengers in 2011 and the route runs from the mountain station of Myrdal down to Flam station in Aurland. The Flam Railway is one of the world’s steepest railway lines, this fantastic ride will take you to some of the most breathtaking places, mountains and waterfalls in Scandinavia and Europe. Furthermore, it was voted in the top 10 list of the most beautiful railway train journeys in Europe by National Geographic Traveller Magazine.

If you require more detailed information on the hiking and trekking possibilities in the region, then the Norwegian Trekking Association is a sensible place to start. They offer extensive marked areas of hiking and cross-country skiing trails, group guide tours like glacier hiking and a broad network of cabins, where you can hike from cabin to cabin if you wish.

In terms of developing as a sustainable holiday destination, the Fjords of Norway were selected as part of the early adopters of the Global Sustainable Tourism Council’s (GSTC) Criteria for Destinations. Regional and national authorities have assembled long-term adventure travel destination plans with a necessary focus on sustainability and sustainable tourism.

The Fjords of Norway are continually working towards environmental sustainability, placing an enhanced focus on sustainable tourism, and showing progression in sustainable forms of tourism like geotourism. Ultimately, to become a market leading destination in adventure travel they must apply strict environmental regulations and protection to its most vulnerable wildlife, expand its sustainable practices, and meet environmental demands for its nature to survive.

Further reading:

Sustainable holiday destinations: Belize

Sustainable holiday destinations: Alaska

Sustainable holiday destinations: Kenya

Sustainable holiday destinations: Blue Mountains, New South Wales

Sustainable holiday destinations: Costa Rica

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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