Nordic Green Transport Conference Overview, Norway’s PM Erna Solberg, Iceland Takes a Bow, and Japan’s Green Growth Strategy

by | Apr 30, 2021 | Podcasts, The Climate Daily

Japan’s Green Growth strategy and its carmakers, plus Nordic Green Transport conference overview. Norway’s PM Erna Solberg, Polly Trottenberg, US Deputy Secretary of Transportation, and Iceland Takes a Bow.



The World Resources Institute recently held a virtual conference called, “The Race to a Fossil-Free Transportation Sector: What the U.S. Can Learn from Nordic Countries to Accelerate the Transition.” It was co-hosted by the embassies of Norway, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden and Finland in the United States. Part of the impetus for the webinar came in part, from the GM commercial aired in the 2021 Superbowl. The commercial, ostensibly promoted around the new GM’s commitment to offer drivers 30 EVs by 2025, but instead hilarity ensues as Will Farrell, Awkafina and Keenan Thompson race to Norway to challenge that country because Will found out Norway sells more EVs per capita than any other nation. Another motivation for holding the conference came from the recognition of twin existential challenges around climate change: equitably handling the climate crisis given the huge inequality of the burden. There is a lot to unpack from this summit, so we’ll attempt to do it over a series of stories today. 

Major speakers included:

  • Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg
  • Iceland’s minster for the environment and natural resources, Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson
  • deputy-Secretary of Transportation, Polly Trottenberg
  • Timo Harakka, Minister of Transport and Communications, Finland
  • Martin Lundstedt, Prez/CEO of Volvo group
  • Everett Eissenstadt, Sr. VP of Global Public Policy at GM
  • Bo Cerup-Simonsen, CEO Mærsk Mc-Kinney Møller Center for Zero Carbon Shipping



As just mentioned, among Conference speakers was the Prime Minister of Norway, Erna Solberg. She spotlighted EVs benefits society:

  • Lower GHG emissions over the lifetime of an EV
  • Lower air pollution
  • Less noise pollution

AND announced Norway’s commitment that all their new car sales will be zero-emissions by 2025. In Norway, electric mobility goes beyond cars in Norway. Green shipping is a major priority, too. It currently operates over 70 electric and hybrid ferries along its coasts. Norway has the 4th largest merchant fleet in the world. It has pledged to purchase zero-emissions ships beginning in 2030. All conferees were tasked with responding to the following questions:

  1. How does transformation to carbon zero transport take place?
  2. How do we make it more equitable?
  3. Where are we on the transformation pathway?
  4. How do we accelerate it?
  5. What can we learn from each other from it?


  1. What can we learn in terms of recent progress on clean transport from Nordic countries?
  2. What policies should the US implement to accelerate the transition to EVs and other clean modes of transport?
  3. And what can private sector do to help drive this change?

 In her remarks, prime minister Solberg outlined why the transition to EVs worked in her country: A broad package of incentives including exemption from VAT and registration taxes; also cheaper road tolls, access to bus lanes and reduced public parking fees.  Plus gas and diesel are subject to a CO2 tax. But we already have high taxes on conventional cars.




From the United States, just-confirmed deputy-Secretary of Transportation, Polly Trottenberg who responded to the gauntlet being thrown down by the Nordic nations. In it, she touted the American Jobs Plan. She pointed out that

  • $174 billion committed to EVs
  • $164 billion committed to rail and mode shifting

 She also recognized that Biden’s gamble to frame greening the American economy as a win for well-paying jobs across all geographic and demographic regions is proving to be a bipartisan, popular message on Main Street, if not on Capitol Hill. She also agreed that the US has much to learn from the Nordics in terms of decarbonizing both the aviation and maritime sectors, so is looking forward to gaining more collaborative time with them. Host asked Trottenberg how the transition will deal with equity issues, so she reminded listeners of Biden’s campaign promise of Justice 40—40% of clean energy and infrastructure investments by US government will go to underserved community contractors. 

Trottenberg also pointed out the highly decentralized nature of America’s mass transit at the local level. Hence, the AJA’s $80 Billion investment in mass transit as a way to incentivize municipalities to green up, especially for smaller and rural communities who are often under resourced. Some of that resourcing will include the development of dedicated bike lanes. Regarding how to deal with a just transition for workers currently employed by conventional vehicle companies, she talked about money in AJA for transition training, re-tooling of manufacturing, etc.



Another presenter at the conference was Iceland’s Minster for the Environment and Natural Resources. He spoke of Iceland’s world-leading role in converting its whole country to clean energy, primarily it was due to government policy committing Iceland to geothermal, and to the government levying taxes and fees to make EVs affordable. It also supported construction of free charging stations around the nation’s roads. Three lessons to be learned from Iceland:

  1. Government support is key. Iceland’s transition would have been significantly slower without it.
  2. Partnerships are essential. Government works faster with collaboration of private industry and local government buy-in.

3. If you focus on investments instead of expenses, clean energy is cheaper than you might think when you include the social costs and benefits of avoiding a climate catastrophe.