Sustainable and Environmentally Friendly City of Stockholm, Sweden

Stockholm is one of Europe’s most environmentally friendly cities, and an international role model of global environmental and climate action. Stockholm has a long history of ambitious environmental and climate plans. The first environment programme was adopted as early as 1976, and a number of policies have followed ever since. With each policy, the ambitions have become increasingly higher and more demanding. Thanks to many years of dedicated and successful environmental efforts, Stockholm was awarded Europe’s first European Green Capital in 2010.

Stockholm has been recognised for its innovative take on urban sustainability, combining grand visions and goals (such as becoming 100% fossil fuel-free by 2040) with practical interventions and measures (such as congestion charging and eco-profiled major redevelopment areas). It has therefore often been suggested that Stockholm can be a role model or ‘best practice’ for other cities around the world.

Sustainable cities or eco-city is a city designed with consideration for social, economic, environmental impact, and resilient habitat for existing populations, without compromising the ability of future generations to experience the same. Ideally, a sustainable city is one that creates an enduring way of life across the four domains of ecology, economics, politics and culture. The European Investment Bank is assisting cities in the development of long-term strategies in fields including renewable transportation, energy efficiency, sustainable housing, education, and health care.

Cities occupy just 3 percent of the Earth’s land but account for 60 to 80 percent of energy consumption and at least 70 percent of carbon emissions. Thus, creating safe, resilient and sustainable cities is one of the top priorities of the Sustainable Development Goals. Most cities today are struggling with environmental degradation, traffic congestion, inadequate urban infrastructure, in addition to a lack of basic services, such as water supply, sanitation, and waste management. A sustainable city should promote economic growth and meet the basic needs of its inhabitants, while creating sustainable living conditions for all.

Socially sustainable cities should be equitable, diverse, connected, democratic, and provide a good quality of life. Priorities of a sustainable city include the ability to feed itself with a sustainable reliance on the surrounding natural environment and the ability to power itself with renewable sources of energy, while creating the smallest conceivable ecological footprint and the lowest quantity of pollution achievable. All of this is to be accomplished by efficiently using the land in ways such as composting used materials, recycling, and/or converting waste-to-energy. These contributions will lead to a decrease of the city’s impact on climate change.

Sustainable cities should promote a great people climate that appeals to individuals and families of all types. Because of this, a shift to denser urban living would provide an outlet for social interaction and conditions under which humans can prosper. These types of urban areas would also promote the use of public transit, walkability and biking which would benefit citizens’ health as well as benefiting the environment.

Stockholm’s achievement
Stockholm leads the planet in most recent Sustainable Cities Index, thanks to investment in sustainable infrastructure, low emissions, and good air quality, which proves that it is succeeding in combining economic prosperity with environmental management. Stockholm was the first city to be awarded the European Green Capital title. Traditionally known as “The Venice of the North”, Stockholm has added more fame to its name. In 2010, Sweden’s capital celebrated to be Europe’s first Green Capital.

In 2010 already, Stockholm was elected the first Green City in Europe. Around 10% of the city’s area is water, many of the lakes and reservoirs are used for recreational purposes, and 95% of the population lives only 300 metres from green areas, thus increasing welfare activities, water purification, noise reduction, improved biodiversity, and ecology.

The City of Stockholm operates with a holistic vision, one which combines growth with sustainable development for the benefit of its almost 800,000 citizens. Transport emissions are relatively low, and all trains and inner city buses run on renewable fuels. Furthermore, green house gas emissions have been reduced by 25 % since 1990, and the city council has the ambitious target of becoming wholly independent of fossil fuels by 2050.

In early 2010, the City of Stockholm launched a new Professional Study Visits Programme in an effort to generate local and international environmental awareness and to strengthen networks with other European cities, organisations and research centres. The programme allowed visitors the opportunity to explore the solutions created by Stockholm in relation to a variety of themes. These included waste management, planning of new urban projects, combating climate change and ensuring an effective and sustainable transportation system.

The city aims to be fossil energy-free by 2040, like Costa Rica, and its work has already been recognised several times, for instance, the “Clean Transport” award granted by CIVITAS in October 2019, a European Union urban network dedicated to greener transport, for its progress in low- and zero-emission vehicles, and for safe cycling and walking routes for citizens.

Together with the already-established strategy, Stockholm City Council has decided to take steps to make the city the smartest and most connected city in the world, with a special focus on sustainability – Vision 2040. The aim is to make Stockholm more economically, ecologically, democratically, and socially sustainable through innovative digital services, transparency, and connectivity.

Environmental program already achieved
Environmentally efficient transport – The City’s goal is to create a long-term sustainable transport system, based on new technology, non-fossil fuels, and more information.

Non-toxic products and buildings – The City shall minimize the dispersal of harmful substances by choosing eco-friendly products and services. Environmentally sustainable methods and materials shall be used during development and construction work.

Sustainable energy usage – If the greenhouse effect is to be reduced, energy must be used more efficiently and the energy used must come from renewable sources. The use of energy-efficient technology will enable the city to be a major player in environmentally driven growth and development, and to reduce its operating costs.

Sustainable use of land and water – Long-term sustainable usage of land promotes economic development without jeopardizing important environmental values.

Environmentally efficient waste management – Efficient and eco-friendly waste management is an important part of society’s infrastructure. The City’s goal is to minimize the amount of waste produced and to increase the percentage utilized through re-usage and recycling.

A healthy indoor environment – The City’s goal is to reduce the number of people who suffer from problems due to their indoor environment, particularly in preschools, schools, and housing for the elderly.

Reduced greenhouse gas emissions – The City’s Environment Administration has explored the actions necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 3.5 or 3.0 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents per Stockholmer by 2015. The cost-effectiveness of the two alternatives is being examined with regard to investment costs, operating costs and interest expenses.

In 2005, emissions totaled appr. 4 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents per person. The Stockholm intends, in cooperation with all of its administrations and companies, to generate proposals for measures and investments that will increase energy efficiency within the individual operating spheres.

Increased energy efficiency in the City’s administrations and companies – There is considerable potential for increasing energy efficiency and reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the City of Stockholm. The biggest potential for increased energy efficiency lies with the City’s property-owning companies and administrations, through the implementation of new technical solutions within the property holding.

Green IT strategy
Stockholm has a worldwide reputation for environmental awareness and a good living environment. In many respects, therefore, the city can already be regarded as a groundbreaker in the field of environmental issues. Maintaining this position does, however, demand an ongoing effort. In many cases, people must change the way they live and work and adopt a new attitude toward environmental issues. Environmental technology and information technology are two particularly important areas when it comes to realizing a sustainable society.

Green IT is a collective name for the measures designed to reduce our environmental impact with the aid of IT. It involves both using information technology to reduce our environmental impact and reducing the energy consumption and environmental impact of the IT sector as a whole.

Green IT is a strategic and management issue, which is why it is important that environmental issues are considered from an operational viewpoint. Doing so clarifies the ways in which the municipality can reduce its environmental impact across the board. If the Stockholm’s environmental goals are to be achieved, it must work in partnership with its inhabitants, private industry, and other players. The employees of the City have an important part to play, both in terms of the internal environmental work and in the context of their roles and dealings with the city’s inhabitants and private industry.

Green IT is, to a large extent, about using information technology to reduce individual organizations’ environmental impact. New solutions that offer better control over energy consumption in buildings result in reduced energy consumption and a minimizing of the buildings’ environmental impact. The Stockholm’s goal is to reduce its operating costs with the aid of energy-efficient technology and thereby helping to promote environmentally driven growth and development. The goal is to reduce energy usage in the Stockholm’s own buildings and facilities by 10 percent based on the levels of the year 2006.

Greener workplaces
There are a number of ways to reduce energy consumption from workplaces and peripheral equipment. The basis of this work is a standardized workplace. Green IT is also about reducing the energy consumption and environmental impact of the IT sector itself. An investment in Green IT can make it easier for the municipality to work with IT in a more eco-friendly way and, at the same time, to save money.

Visualize energy and electricity usage
Increasing energy efficiency involves, amongst other things, illustrating and visualizing electricity and energy usage. Technical solutions offer considerable potential for increasing the energy efficiency of the property holding. Clarify principles and rules determining how much hot water (and heating) are included in the rent and generate incentives for both parties to save energy.

The Stockholm’s goal is a long-term sustainable transport system, based on new technology, non-fossil fuels, and expanded information. Accessibility and availability must be increased for various different types of traffic, with the support of new technology and IT.

Eco-friendly travel
Alternatives to travel are being increasingly widely discussed. Promoting a developmental trend whereby mobility is replaced with accessibility requires active efforts to reduce the need for physical travel. Information technology can generate new opportunities for reducing the environmental impact of personal transportation. Creating alternatives to travel also offers the potential for more flexible working.

Actions required: Enable environmentally efficient travel choices for business travel. Measure and visualize vehicle usage more clearly. Promote cycling by providing access to navigation support. Generate the preconditions for changing the way we work (mobile working, electronic locks, e-commerce, internal/external e-services).

To minimize our environmental impact by continuing to invest in e-services that replace paper forms and reduce travel. Prioritize the development of e-services that reduce environmental impact and increase operational efficiency. Stockholm must implement efficient storage measures to make document searching and retrieval simple and easy, and must enable digital signatures for meetings’ minutes and resolutions.

New Challenge
No city is a self-sufficient island, but rather represents nodes within networks that both constitute and are constituted by innumerable flows of people, ideas, and resources, flows at the intersections of which the phenomenon of urbanisation is generated. Many researchers argue that much of the apparent decline in emissions in reality simply are the results of emissions being displaced to other parts of the world.

In more recent decades, and paralleling the rapid global diffusion of the Western consumerist lifestyle ideal, environmental measures have often been cast as threats or restrictions to the comforts of the “good life.” The policies that have been most easily accepted are those that save consumers time, energy, or money as well as the environment. Recently, interest has turned to innovative and often “silent” or “passive” green technology, neatly avoiding uncomfortable discussions regarding established ideals of personal consumption, freedom and individual lifestyle choices.

Nevertheless, if urban decision-makers are serious in their ambition to achieve sustainable urban development, the day may come sooner rather than later when some difficult choices have to be made. These concern not only how to ramp up innovations in technology and facilitate green consumption and green growth, but also how to balance individual and collective needs in the longer as well as the shorter term, taking into account the local, trans-local, and global impacts of local activities.

Sustainable cities must consider how societal goals for collective sustainable behaviour can be achieved in modern urban societies strongly influenced by global cultural trends favouring individual choice and consumption. It is, for instance, difficult to earnestly discuss the sustainability of a city without taking into regard the consumption patterns and practices of its inhabitants, and the environmental degradation generated through these lifestyles, in the place of consumption – but also at the sites of production of the goods.

Vision 2030
The City Council of Stockholm has adopted Vision 2030. Vision 2030 is a vision for the development of the city from now to the year 2030. The goal is to become one of the world’s cleanest, safest and most beautiful cities where Stockholm is a world leader in information technology and in the development, commercialization, and application of new environmental and energy-related technologies. But Vision 2030 is also envisioning Stockholm as an energy-efficient city where the use of non-fossil fuel reduces the city’s total emissions of greenhouse gases.

Stockholm has every chance of achieving these goals. The city and the Mälardalen region already have an efficient public transport system whose environmental impact is minimal. New bypass routes will further reduce the environmental impact while simultaneously enhancing accessibility. Stockholm aims to be a world leader when it comes to public transport usage by its inhabitants, to establish a safe cycle route network, and to offer convenient water-based transport options.

Fossil-fuel-free by 2040
The strategy for a fossil-fuel-free Stockholm describes how the city needs to work to meet and manage the challenge of climate change. C40 is a group of large cities committed to tackling climate change. Big cities play a central role in fighting climate change. By fostering a sense of shared purpose, the C40 network offers cities an effective forum in which to work together, share information and demonstrate leadership.

The Green Cities Programme assesses how urban green growth and environmental policies can improve economic performance and environmental quality in cities. The aim is to increase the cities’ contribution to national growth, quality of life and competitiveness. Stockholm is part of the OECD’s Green Cities Programme for green growth. The Green Cities Programme offers selected cities to participate through case studies, which form the basis for an analytical OECD Flagship report. In addition to Stockholm the cities of Paris, Chicago and Kitakyushu (Japan) also participate in the program.

Plans and solutions
All new Stockholmers need housing, workplaces, commercial services and public services such as schools and pre-schools. The city needs to expand, develop and maintain all infrastructure like streets, power lines, and public transport. The high ambitions within the area of climate and the environment must be matched by efforts for a socially cohesive city. Two new policies will support in these important efforts going forward: The Environment Programme and The Climate Action Plan. Stockholm will adopt a climate budget, and sets out to be climate positive by 2040.

The goals of the program will not be met by the City of Stockholm alone, but in close international cooperation and with the help of technological innovation. The programme is designed to stimulate and strengthen collaboration, innovation and communication. The role of industry and commerce is clarified, as well as where ways of cooperation should be developed. The active choices of Stockholmers also determine how quickly and successfully the goals are reached.

Stockholm has had ambitious environmental and climate plans for many years. With these new policies, the City of Stockholm will increase its efforts even more. The Environment Programme covers the period 2020-2023, and sets goals within the most challenging areas.
Stockholm is a fossil free and climate positive city by 2040
The City of Stockholm is a fossil free organisation by 2030
Stockholm is adapted to climate change
Stockholm is a resource smart city
Biodiversity flourishes in coherent ecosystems
Stockholm is a city with clean air and low noise levels

Climate Action Plan:
A fossil free and climate positive Stockholm by 2040. The Climate Action plan has been developed alongside the Environment Programme. The action plan explains how the City of Stockholm will reach its ambitious climate goals, as presented in the Environment Programme.

The Climate Action Plan also includes the Stockholm city’s climate budget, and allowed emissions before 2040. The climate budget sets maximum atmosphere emission of carbon dioxide at 19 million tons during 2020-2040. With the Climate Action Plan, the City of Stockholm takes important steps towards meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement.
Stockholm is a fossil free and climate positive city by 2040
The City of Stockholm is a fossil free organisation by 2030
Reduced greenhouse gas emissions – a maximum of 1.5 tonnes of CO2e per inhabitant by 2023
Reduced climate impact from consumption