City officials lifted the temporary ban on operating diesel vehicles on municipal roads at 6pm on Tuesday. The measure was put in place at 6am on Tuesday due to the danger of high exhaust pollution over large areas of the city.
The ban was to be in effect from 6am to 10pm every day until conditions improved but on Tuesday evening officials said that the weather forecast for Wednesday cleared the way to lift the temporary measure.
“Throughout the day [on Wednesday] wind is expected at higher elevations, which will likely stir the air during the afternoon and evening,” Oslo’s environment department, Bymiljøetaten, said in a statement.
Oslo’s thickly polluted winter air is due in large part to the combination of cold temperatures and very little wind.
According Bymiljøetaten, the air quality in most areas of the Norwegian capital was good on Tuesday, with the exception of some heavily trafficked areas that saw moderate pollution in the morning rush hour.
“The weather [on Tuesday] was different than the weather that was predicted. There has been little wind, but some rainfall and low inversion,” the agency said, referring to the weather phenomenon that traps cold and polluted air toward the ground.
The department said that it still expects elevated nitrogen dioxyde (NO2) levels during Wednesday’s rush hour traffic, especially in the morning. However, this will most likely be limited to the most heavily trafficked areas.
While diesel cars emit less carbon dioxide (CO2) they emit more NO2.
Tuesday’s temporary ban on diesel vehicles marked the first time that Oslo officials implemented a strategy that has been under discussion siance at least 2011. The city council — made up of the Labour and Greens parties — agreed in principle in February 2016 on the use of such a measure.
Under the ban, motorists risk a fine of 1,500 kroner for driving diesel vehicles on affected roads.
The measure has angered some motorists, who were encouraged in 2006 by Norwegian authorities to opt for diesel vehicles, which at the time were considered a better environmental choice than petrol-fuelled cars.
“Make up your minds. It wasn't very long ago that diesel was recommended over petrol by Jens [Stoltenberg, the former prime minister, now Nato’s secretary general, ed.]. Not sure you really know what is best,” wrote an annoyed Irene Signora Maier Tziotas on the Facebook page of newspaper VG.
Others used even stronger language.
Mazyar Keshvari, an MP from the populist right Progress Party which is a member of the coalition government, urged motorists to seek compensation.
“The biggest swindle of Norwegian motorists has now become a reality,” he told TV2. “This was part of the red-green government's [Stoltenberg's coalition] ingenious climate measures.”
Other Norwegians were more philosophical.
“Very good measure. We should introduce a permanent ban on diesel in all big cities. The fines should also be doubled,” one member of the public, Kenneth Tempel, wrote on VG's Facebook page.
According to the Norwegian Institute of Public Health, air pollution causes 185 premature deaths in Oslo each year.