“The social, ecological and economic dimensions are interconnected”: Stockholm’s fossil fuel-free ambition

The City of Stockholm hosted a session at the Cities & Regions Pavilion – TAP2015 at COP21 on Thursday, 3 December. Entitled “Stockholm – how to be fossil fuel free by 2040,” the session presented Stockholm’s ambitious targets and its plans for reaching them. As Gustaf Landahl (Head of Department for Environmental Administration, Stockholm) pointed out, the goal of being fossil fuel-free by 2040 is a significant challenge, as Stockholm is one of the fastest-growing cities in Europe. Its plans for housing and infrastructure must therefore be adapted to account for the population increase.

Stockholm’s plan does not exist in isolation: other Nordic countries like Denmark and Finland are developing plans to become fossil fuel-free. However, Stockholm’s sets a clear deadline. As Anna Lindstedt (Climate Ambassador for Sweden) said, the city must “excel in all aspects”. Katarina Luhr (Vice Mayor for the Environment, Stockholm) agreed that integration was essential: “we have to understand that the social, ecological and economic dimensions are interconnected”.

Stockholm’s plan serves as a pioneering example for national governments. Lindstedt explained that “we want to challenge other countries to join us and compete with us”. Its goal of being fossil fuel free by 2040 also aligns with Sweden’s trajectory. In September 2015, the Swedish government announced that it would be spending an additional USD $546 million on renewable energy and climate change action, with the goal of becoming a fossil fuel-free nation.

Stockholm is focusing on six areas in its long-term environmental plan: environmentally-efficient transport, goods and buildings free of dangerous substances, sustainable energy use, sustainable use of land and water, waste treatment with minimal environmental impact and a healthy indoor environment. Gustaf Landahl explained that significant progress has already been made in many of these areas. In particular, heating has been made more efficient and is increasingly powered by renewable energy.

Fossil fuels still dominate the transport sector, Landahl explained, accounting for 83% of fuel. Stockholm is addressing this through a range of initiatives, including goods logistics, which is often overlooked. Stockholm also has a strong history of district energy heating, thanks to coordinated planning over the last 50 years. Today, 80% of all building space in Stockholm is connected to district heating, and the city is building new plant to contribute further.

In a question and answer session, panellists explained that a significant barrier to progress is the coordination required between nations and the European Union. However, Stockholm is confident that it is heading in the right direction and will achieve its goal.

And the lessons for other cities? In a later session, Mayor Karin Wanngård offered three pieces of advice: build good public transport, build climate neutral houses and engage a wide range of citizens and stakeholders. If Stockholm achieves its target, it will serve as an inspiration, showing that dramatic reductions can be achieved in a short space of time.

This blog post was developed by ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability in collaboration with the City of Stockholm.