‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step’ : How Sweden reached its sustainability

Sweden is famous for its sustainability - but how did it get that way? Titi Sari Nurul R and Adriana Soto Trujillo, members of the SI NFGL Sustainability Network in Stockholm, share their perspectives.

'A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step' : How Sweden reached its sustainability
It is common knowledge that Sweden is ranked as the Most Sustainable Country in the World for 2015 according to the Country Sustainability Ranking study.
Nevertheless, Sweden’s sustainability was not achieved easily. It required consistency of public policies and long term implementation. It also involved collaboration between government, universities, and private companies, along with the active participation of citizens.
SI NFGL Sustainability Network in Stockholm wanted to understand and experience Sweden’s sustainability and thus, created a series of sustainability events. We have run two events so far. First, a workshop about Perspectives of Sustainable Energy’s Future and a seminar about Climate Change Negotiations.
First Event: Perspectives of Sustainable Energy’s Future Workshop
At this event, we learned from different experiences about sustainable energy practices. Clean Vehicles explained Stockholm’s strategies to reach 100% fossil free city, ClimaCheck introduced energy efficiency in air conditioning system, and Cortus Energy presented biomass technology.
Clean Vehicles gave insight on what strategies they used to promote and increase the use of clean vehicles in Stockholm. Currently, Stockholm has 210.000 clean vehicles which is 23% of total vehicles. It saved 300.000 ton of CO2/year!
And it was truly interesting on how Stockholm initiated it. Stockholm started the use of clean vehicles with its municipal fleet such as heavy duty vehicles and continued with light duty vehicles. Then, government approached taxi companies as they have big armada of car to also use clean vehicle. They set the rule so that clean vehicle taxi get priority by not having to queue to get the customers. The government also approach big companies, encouraging them to start using clean vehicles. And it became a very effective campaign for the public. Seeing the successes so far, Stockholm set an ambitious goal of a 100% fossil free city by 2040. It is ambitious but also realistic!
The next presenters, ClimaCheck, spoke about about their services for improving energy efficiency and reliability in air conditioning and refrigeration systems. Through onsite measurements and online continuous monitoring systems, ClimaCheck helps manufacturers, consultants, contractors or property owners analyze the performance of their cooling and heating systems, providing important information to prevent energy waste. This has helped big companies like IKEA, to optimize their energy consumption.
Last but not least, Cortus Energy presented the technology used for efficient gasification of biomass from agriculture and industry) to produce green energy for different applications like power generation, industry and vehicles.
Then, we continued the workshop with discussion between participants and speakers. Interesting issues emerged like benefits and constrains of subsidies, how to change “business as usual” in energy and industry sector, cost-effective vocational training, how to raise public awareness, and the influence of policy makers in this matter.
Lastly, participants had the opportunity to put their knowledge into a real case study by developing ideas on how to create a sustainable energy system in a fictitious city. This last exercise had a positive feedback from the participants, we felt their enthusiasm and made us feel positive and hopeful about the future! Second Event: Climate Change Negotiations: New Forms of Leadership Seminar
This event was a collaboration with the Centre for Environment and Development Studies (CEMUS) and Uppsala University Climate Change Platform (UUCC). This event was held in Uppsala University. We were really happy since this was our first time visiting Uppsala.
At this event, participants had a brief introduction to the work of CEMUS. It was really interesting to know that if we were a CEMUS student, we could co-create our own courses related to sustainability issues with an integrated and transdisciplinary approach!
Students from the UUCC platform also shared their experience and perspective as participants in the negotiations at the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change) climate change conferences in Bonn and Marrakesh. Following, we created a group discussion and discussed about the Paris Agreement and its contribution to real solutions to tackle climate change. In small scale, we discussed the role of youth and how it can complement the formal politics, considering youth is powerful enough to drive a change and halt global warming.
We have reached a halfway of this network. We still have 2 events to go: a study visit to Hammarby Sjöstadsverk, a joint Research and Development (R&D) facility of IVL (Swedish Environmental Research Institute) and KTH. Also a workshop about waste and wastewater management in Stockholm. Overall, we really enjoy the moments spent with this network, we are able to challenge ourselves, meet new friends from different cultures, and learn the Sweden’s knowledge and experience in sustainability.
Thank you Swedish Institute for giving us this opportunity!!
Titi Sari Nurul R & Adriana Soto Trujillo
Members of SI NFGL Sustainability in Stockholm