The city of Malmö, Sweden’s third largest, has successfully reinvented itself. From an industrial city, the city has become a city of knowledge and culture. It has achieved further prosperity with the construction of the Öresund bridge road, railway and tunnel project, linking Malmö to Copenhagen and to European rail lines.
With the Turning Torso – the architectural structure overlooking the city skyline – facing the world as a symbol of openness, Malmö is a progressive city that has been making diversity and sustainability its key characteristics.
The city, which has made bold moves to set increasingly ambitious targets over the years, is now gearing up to deliver a paced and diligent transition to net-zero by 2030 for a just and equitable transition.
This article explores Malmö’s transition and its upcoming challenges, the markers of its transformation and the configuration of its climate action plan.
Accelerating an already positive trajectory
With a recession and an energy crisis in the 1970s, Malmö, much like the rest of Sweden, was forced to focus on reforming its energy sector. In the 1990s, the city began to actively focus on sustainability.
As Trevor Graham, Senior Climate Advisor at the City of Malmö says transparently:
“We cut our emissions by 40% from 1990 to 2020, so it means that in the next seven and a half years, we have to do as much as we did in the past 30 years. That’s just to get our head around it. We clearly are on a positive trajectory, but the issue of speed and intensity is a real challenge.”
From low hanging fruit to tackling real challenges
The 40% decrease in territorial emissions since 1990 has mostly to do with the emissions reductions coming from the energy sector. The second largest sector responsible for emissions is the transportation sector, where emissions have not declined since the 1990s.
Together, these sectors make up for 70% of emissions. And while decarbonizing the energy sector was a low hanging fruit that has been capitalized on, with few stakeholders to involve, the transport sector will prove much more complex.
For Anna Roslund, Climate Strategist at the City of Malmö, the reality of being a transit zone, a port city but also the intersection between two European countries, has both pros and cons. Generally, the complexity from transportation comes from the number of stakeholders involved. But in Malmö, Anna points out: “we have a lot of transport coming through Malmö, which makes it even more complex.”
Despite this difficulty, Anna explains that the city generally knows what it needs to do to address these types of territorial emissions. The more complex challenge has to do with consumption emissions, where you have to encourage behavioral changes.
Trevor continues: “We’ve now got the big wicked problems, where we don’t know the answers, targets around Scope 3 and consumption emissions for the city as a whole, not just the city administration. That’s places where we don’t have the mandate. For that, we need to start building really broad alliances and work together – both within the city and with business, academia, civil society and citizens”.
Building broad, multi-faceted city alliances
Stronger relationships have been built between city sectors. The work within the energy sector and the relatively limited number of partners in that space has, in particular, fostered a closer bond also with the City.
Indeed, the City of Malmö is in the process of building the same type of alliances within other priority transition areas. In collaboration with significant infrastructure owners, energy, construction and housing companies the aim is to establish roadmaps which focus on the actions that make the biggest difference in each transition area. Those roadmaps set a clear action plan for 2030.
The building and construction industry in Malmö – initiated and supported by the City of Malmö – has already developed a roadmap: LFM30 – The local roadmap for a climate-neutral building and construction sector in Malmö 2030. The work has mobilized 44 property developers and 149 affiliates – that is “all of those who in any way work with construction of new buildings, structures, renovation or energy” – all with the aim of making the sector climate neutral by 2030.
By focusing on 6 key interdependent areas and groups within the sector, the local roadmap “is not only inclusive, but also executable” as “all actors in the value chain must contribute to the roadmap based on their expertise, capabilities, and own agency.”
“In order to achieve climate neutrality within the building and construction industry we need to implement measures which gradually raise the requirements which partners must meet. Step by step it is our objective to optimize the processes through adding, subtracting, and substituting methods in our projects to reduce the climate impact as well as make it possible to follow up and continuously learn from our actions.”
With such ambitious targets and so many actors involved, Anna reports that finding a process of compiling actions from stakeholders has been key. City climate strategists have then used the ClimateOS platform in order to compile all the actions going on in the city, and see what they amount to and whether there are enough measures to fulfill a target, thereby keeping track of the transition’s progress.
Investing time in technology co-development to share best practices globally
The City of Malmö already possesses lots of data, analysis, a strong team and experience. Yet, the complexity of the challenge requires new tools and processes to bring together all the puzzle pieces and people.
As Jonas Kamleh, Senior Strategist at the environmental administration in Malmö city puts it, “We are convinced that smart digital solutions create new conditions for working on Malmö's climate transition. We get increased transparency and efficiency in climate planning and this creates new opportunities to include the societal effects of climate work. We work hard to accelerate the transition in Malmö, and now we are also putting our learnings in a scalable platform to help accelerate climate action in cities across Sweden and Europe.”
Beyond the work with the ClimateOS platform, Malmö has accepted the challenge head on and has graciously taken up the position of role model for the rest of the world. Anna Roslund explains how cities everywhere need a framework to make the transition happen faster and there is no need to start from scratch everywhere:
“All cities need to do this in some way. What’s important is to create a really good wheel, as opposed to a static framework, in order to make the transition faster for everyone. We learn from our mistakes and we want to share our insights so that others don’t have to make the same mistakes.”
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