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Umeå's pioneering climate action

Manon Morel Thu, 27 February 2020

In a talk with the Head of Sustainable Development Department of Umeå we discovered some great climate actions, got to know their experience in how gender influences individual travel behaviour and found out how the city is going to use ClimateView.

Umeå is definitely special when it comes to addressing climate. The city has been awarded by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) as Sweden's Climate City 2016. A prize achieved for their ability to turn climate strategy into action and engage the residents of the municipality and companies to act climate-smart. But their path to become climate neutral started much earlier.

Johan Sandström, Head of Sustainable Development Department of Umeå, has worked with energy efficiency and climate change for about 15 years on municipal and regional level. During this time, one of the actions he feels most proud about is their fossil free public transport. A fully-electric bus system, including ultra-fast charging stations, is being implemented and 70% of all the bus fleet is already electrical.

“When we started this project around 10 years ago, we were pioneers when it came to electric busses. Nobody wanted to work with Umeå. A local company called Hybricon started to convert buses to electric buses. We started the project completely locally, for a couple of years we had 10 electric buses and now we have 25”, he explains.

According to him, the fact that the public transport is run by a citizen owned company, a cooperation between the public and private sector, is one of the key factors that he sees behind for this success. Another factor is the amount of green energy the city can produce. In fact, the city has hydropower, wind and solar plants, that produce not only enough for covering their own needs, but also have the capacity to export 40% of their production to other regions.

Even though the bus fleet and the ticket sales are growing, Johan is still aware of the speed that is required to address the current climate situation. “When it comes to climate change and to the transition to a climate neutral city, things have to happen  fast and right now we don’t see that speed. This is not only a challenge for Umeå, it is for all cities”.

Credit: Municipality of Umeå

And in their case, he pinpoints one big challenge when it comes to the travel behaviour:

“The main challenge is to get people on the bus not to get the busses fossil-fuel free”

A challenge that also has a gender aspect when it comes to reaching that 65% of all travels should be done by bus, cycling or walking. A target that women have already reached. “Women are traveling much more sustainably than men. (...) To put it straight forward: We have to put the men in the bus.”

“If all the citizens in Umeå were travelling like women we could reach a lot.”

Currently, Umeå plans to be carbon-neutral by 2030. They are aiming to build a roadmap integrating a number of different stakeholders and they are using ClimateView as a climate planning tool to get people involved, to visualize and communicate the project. Johan’s experience with the tool is that “using ClimateView you can get quite concrete when you are looking at different actions”.

“Because sometimes when one is producing those roadmaps it is more about ‘we have to do something with the public transport’ and you put it up in actions like ‘Look into how public transport could use renewable energy’. But with ClimateView you can get more like ‘What do we really have to do to reach that target and to continue with the discussion?’, ‘Is it possible?’ and ‘Do we have the money?’. And if it is not possible, you can also communicate it to our politicians and also on the national level and show to the ones leading the transition that maybe they need to find more fundings.”

In this particular project, when bringing stakeholders together that can have a big impact on the transport, ClimateView will help to ask questions, to identify options and to prioritize climate actions.

If you want to know more about Umeå go here.

And if you wish to know more about ClimateView, Sweden's leading climate planning tool, please contact us!

Credit photo Johan Sandström: Samuel Pettersson