• Sweden edition
 
Stockholm's Green City award: it's what you can't see that counts

Stockholm's Green City award: it's what you can't see that counts

Published: 04 Apr 2010 10:03 GMT+02:00
Updated: 04 Apr 2010 10:03 GMT+02:00

A fisherman braces to reel in a large, wriggling salmon, its scales glistening in the sun as he lays his catch down, not on a sandy river bank but on the bustling cobblestone walkway outside parliament, at the very heart of the Swedish capital.

The sight is not uncommon in Stockholm, which this year was singled out for the European Union's first ever Green Capital award.

"The environment here is good, it's beautiful, it's clean," summed up Anna Elig, a 37 year-old Stockholm dweller pushing her eight-week-old daughter's carriage through the city centre on a cool, sunny afternoon.

"All the moms and dads who are on parental leave go out for walks around the city ... This wouldn't work in Paris," she chuckled, strolling along the broad walkway near the sparkling water.

With 40 percent of the inner city composed of green spaces, the Baltic Sea archipelago city seems a natural place to begin the European Commission's Green Capital initiative.

"I wasn't surprised," said Katarina Eckerberg, a professor of political science and head of an environmental institute.

"Stockholm has a highly developed environmental policy, and any foreigner who comes here is probably surprised that we can benefit from nature as much as we do in the very center of town," she said.

Revelling in nature is a way of life in Sweden, so deeply engrained in the national character that widespread environmental activism already began here as long as 50 years ago.

"Maybe it's because (Sweden) is so sparsely populated and many of us have summer cottages, that Swedes have such a high regard for the environment," Gustaf Landahl, who heads Stockholm's environment and planning department, told AFP.

Even in Stockholm, virtually all residents live within walking distance of lakes, hiking trails and other natural settings, and stepping into a pair of cross-country skis outside their front door is commonplace.

It's a capital that "all along had the privilege of being a town built on water," said Eckerberg, and Stockholmers are ready to defend this privilege.

In the 1960s, when pollution forced Stockholmers to stop fishing or swimming in downtown areas, a bottom-up movement emerged to clean up city waters, Eckerberg said.

Today, the salmon caught there is edible and swimming poses no health risk.

But what impressed the European Commission, the EU executive body, was not what they could see, but what they couldn't.

"I spoke to the evaluation committee and I think what impressed them the most is how we've been able to reduce our CO2 emissions," Landahl said.

Indeed, the city brought environment-damaging carbon dioxide emissions down to 3.4 tonnes per capita in 2009 and hopes to slash that to 3.0 tonnes by 2015.

In Sweden as a whole, CO2 emissions are only six tonnes per capita, as compared to the European average of 10 tonnes per capita.

Stockholm's efforts have focussed on the two biggest environmental culprits: road transport and heating, which together account for 43 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in the EU.

In a city where freezing winter temperatures can last up to five months, this was a challenge. One solution was investing in district heating, which hooks up 75 percent of buildings in the capital to central heating plants that run primarily on renewables and also produce electricity.

And in the transport sector, "we've been able to reduce emissions even though the municipality has grown," Landahl said proudly, noting that in the rest of Europe transport emissions tend to rise as cities expand.

Stockholm officials tirelessly campaign against residents using their own cars, and even during the long, cold winters 19 percent of Stockholmers bike or walk to work, according to figures from 2007. In summer, that number jumps to 33 percent.

Many others in the spread-out capital region also ride public transport, to the point that figures published by the city show that the number of users continues to rise each month.

Despite the award, there are those who feel the EU's first Green Capital could do more.

"Even in Stockholm, there is a lot of discussion and disputes about whether some current developments are in line with environmental considerations or not," Eckerberg noted.

A major problem, she said, was the booming real estate development along the waterfront that at points has blocked public access and risks endangering the delicate Baltic Sea ecosystem.

"There's much more to be done," she said. "More could always be done."

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

14:48 April 4, 2010 by powerofknowledge
It really deserves this appreciation
18:07 April 4, 2010 by storstark
swedes must be well-chuffed about this... it justifies their pontificating about how green they are while they overheat their houses and keep every freaking light on and some for 6 months of the year...
19:44 April 4, 2010 by ontheball
Thanks for the insight. This 'news' is over three months old. Go to the EU's site and see for yourself!
22:49 April 4, 2010 by jaradat_omar
God bless Sweden!
08:21 April 5, 2010 by Kronaboy
@ontheball

You should know by were so humble that it takes us a bit of time to blow our own trumpet.
11:57 April 5, 2010 by seychelle_18
I have been staying here in Sweden for less than a year and I could say that this is the cleanest country in Europe that I have visited so far compared to Spain, Italy and France. I am a nature lover and I really enjoy the lake and the forest that is always a few meters away even if you live in the city.

Sweden shows a fantastic beauty everytime it change the seasons.
12:54 April 5, 2010 by waybackwhen
It's "we're" not "were" Kronaboy.

And Ontheball is right this is old news, I read or saw something about this about 6 months ago.

i.e. thelocal.se isn't "on the ball"
13:27 April 5, 2010 by conboy
Reminds me of the time when Mats Hulth the then Social Democrat Mayor of Stockholm conned the IOC Committe into drinking water swept up in a glass from the steps adjoining the Klara Kanal as part of a propaganda drive to bring the Olympics to Sweden banging on about the "clean water" - a few months later it was revealed that the bottom of the canal was riddled with cyanide and lead - never judge a book by it's cover folks!
13:28 April 5, 2010 by Audrian
I still feel burnning sensation from exhausts in streets of Stockholm even though ollution her might be less than elsewhere, e.g., Tornoto. On the other hand, it is common to see trash thrown around, probably by the young. In Tornonto one does not see such type of trash. As the writer has suggested there is a lot of work to be done, e.g., cutting down the number of cars coming into the city by developing more underground transport.

A point that is not said in the article is that Stockholm probably tops the world's most beautiful cities.
00:22 April 6, 2010 by GLO
This is just another pile of Bull @#$%.....
12:02 April 6, 2010 by Kronaboy
@waybackwhen

What can I say, while you were learning your grammar at school, we were wasting our time worrying about silly little things like not getting knifed.
21:08 April 6, 2010 by seychelle_18
I agree with you Xi Dam :-) I love that possitivity.

Why do we always complain? Why not just think of how we could be of help. It's better that if we have complain/s there must be a corresponding suggestion for improvement.
12:18 April 7, 2010 by quentin77
You can always tell an AFP derived article. 9/10 Swedish idolatry, 1/10 objective journalism. AFP need to drop the gushing tourist brochure mode and get back to proper reporting.
15:02 April 7, 2010 by MyFire
European Commission should be targeting the dirty countries around the 'clean Baltic Sea' that constantly dump unprocessed waste directly into the ocean!

Like...Estonia / Poland / RUSSIA!!! (but then you need to have a pair of something between your legs...;)
15:18 April 7, 2010 by tommycapes
stockholm is a beautiful place, its just the people who live here let it down.

love stockholm, hate stockholmers
17:04 April 8, 2010 by rydbo1
Credit where it's due it's a great benefit to all of us to live in a beautifully clean, green city. But I do agree the leaving on of lights especially outdoor lights for endless months is a waste of precious energy, and I am sure there is more to be done including putting pressure on the great offenders of carbon pollution.....do I need to name names !!!

I think the love Stockholm and hate Stockholmers is a whole topic that will be discussed for years to come by all of us that are not native to Stockholm.
17:13 April 9, 2010 by harrylatour
Don't knock yourselves too much you Swedes,,,rude?? as an Englishman of 70 you aint seen nuthin!! London is the the ''crap central'' of the entire western world and expensive,,,at least most of the turist stuff is the only stuff thats cheap!!
17:26 April 9, 2010 by mukiwa
Come on over and give it a try in LA......Sweden's size makes allot of things possible.....
15:30 April 16, 2010 by barryberry
wow, I'm really jeaous of Stockholmers! I'm from Hong Kong. There're seven millions people in such a tiny city! And we always suffered from air pollution! I ,as an individual, try my very best to reduce my carbon footprint such as using less plastic bag, switch off some idle eletrical appliance. But still the environment in Hong Kong is getting worse and worse!

Although Hong Kong is a cosmopolitan metropolis, it's time we should reflect on our environmental policy. Here, Stockholm is a good example! :D
17:26 April 19, 2010 by randyt
My first visit to Stockholm was in 1996 and the first thing I noticed on the taxi ride in from Arlanda was how clear the water ways were. Reaching my hotel room and being a bit thirsty I grabbed a drink from the tap, wow water tasted better than the bottle water in the states. Keep up the great work and example to the rest of the world.
Today's headlines
Eco-conscious Swedes in hen house trend
Chickens photo: Shutterstock.

Eco-conscious Swedes in hen house trend

Fresh eggs from the hen house at the bottom of the garden is the latest eco-friendly fad being pursued by Swedish urbanites ready to run the risk of a little neighbourhood friction to keep their Saturday pancakes organic. READ () »

Football fan father leaves baby in sweltering car
Parked car photo: Shutterstock.

Football fan father leaves baby in sweltering car

A baby was saved from a car parked in the stifling heat outside of a football stadium in western Sweden on Sunday with the child's father believed to be at the game. READ () »

Police launch probe after Easter ferry smash
A coastguard vessel involved in the rescue operation. Photo: TT

Police launch probe after Easter ferry smash

Stockholm police are investigating criminal negligence in connection with a crash involving a small taxi vessel and a giant Finland-bound ferry on Friday which left three people needing rescue from the icy waters of Stockholm's archipelago. READ () »

Ikea to introduce 'green' vegetarian meatballs

Ikea to introduce 'green' vegetarian meatballs

Swedish furniture giant Ikea is planning to put vegetarian meatballs on the menu in an attempt to cut down on its carbon footprint, the company has announced. READ () »

Students to keep paying off debt beyond 67

Students to keep paying off debt beyond 67

The Swedish government has proposed scrapping the 25-year span for repaying student loans, by suggesting those who attend higher education should keep paying the money back well into retirement. READ () »

Drowned puppies found in crayfish cage
The crayfish cage in the picture is not the one mentioned in the story. Photo: Christine Olsson/TT

Drowned puppies found in crayfish cage

Police in eastern Sweden have launched a preliminary investigation of animal cruelty after two puppies were found drowned in a crayfish cage. READ () »

Three rescued after cruise ship sinks boat
Rickard Rundgren Björk of the coastguard services speaks to the media after the rescue operation on April 19th 2014. Photo: Maja Suslin /TT

Three rescued after cruise ship sinks boat

Three Saturday morning sailors had a lucky escape after their small boat collided and sank after it crashed into a cruise ship whilst sailing in the Stockholm archipelago. READ () »

Missing Swede found alive and well in UK
Sofie Marie Jansson. Photo: Metropolitan Police

Missing Swede found alive and well in UK

British police have found the missing Swedish girl Sofie Jansson in London, exactly a week after she was last seen, with authorities saying she is doing well. READ () »

Social Democrats make tax pledge to elderly

Social Democrats make tax pledge to elderly

Sweden's opposition party has stepped up its efforts to secure the pensioner vote by pledging to lower taxes for the elderly and make higher earners pay more. READ () »

Malmö Nazi attack victim on the mend
Showan Shattak pictured in Malmö before his attack. Photo: Facebook

Malmö Nazi attack victim on the mend

The 25-year-old man, whose stabbing by neo-Nazis sparked mass demonstrations across Sweden, has made a strong recovery in hospital and took to social media to thank supporters for campaigning against fascism. READ () »

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
TT
Society
Kids in Victorian garb mark Swedish Easter
Shutterstock
National
Swedish MP ordered chemtrail probe
Society
Swedish supermarket Ica pulls contested Easter commercial off air
Kungahuset
Society
Swedish royals set baptism date for princess
finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 16
Politics
Who's the prime minister's heir?
Alfie Atkins
Society
Are children's books the key to families integrating in Sweden?
National
'Sweden Dem protests cater to party's martyr image'
National
'Swedish research grants were fantastic, but now it's like Australia'
Society
Only in Sweden: The ten problems you'd never encounter elsewhere
National
Swedes stopped to take my picture, but didn't look me in the eyes
Business & Money
A swipe of the hand replaced cash and cards in Lund
Advertisement:
YouTube
Features
Video: Oliver Gee finds out how to embrace The Swedish Hug
TT
National
Abba duo hints at reunion
Private
National
Flash mobs hug it out across Sweden
Finest.se
Gallery
People-watching April 11-13
TT
Politics
Swedes to give six-hour workday a go
TT
Society
Aussie choir member wows Abba in Sweden
YouTube
Society
Stockholm magic a surprise YouTube hit
Fastighetsbyrån
Society
Gallery: The Local's Property of the Week
Private
Society
Swedes find 200-year-old gravestone in living room
Stockholm School of Economics
Sponsored Article
Why a bachelor's degree is no longer enough
Deepti Vashisht
Features
Deepti Vashisht dissects the magic of Sweden's personal ID number
Shutterstock
Society
Ten signs you've been in Sweden too long
Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Germany

More news from Germany at thelocal.de

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Blog Update: The Diplomatic Dispatch

28 October 15:16

The Green Growth Group Summit »

"Today on the 28 October in Brussels, a large group of key EU Ministers and business people, including UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change Edward Davey, and Swedish Environment Minister Lena Ek, will meet to discuss green growth. They all have a stake in resolving a challenge which, although it is crucial..." READ »

718
jobs available
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions
Swedish Down Town Consulting & Productions is an innovative business company which provides valuable assistance with the Swedish Authorities, Swedish language practice and general communications. Call 073-100 47 81 or visit:
www.swedishdowntown.com