Professor Ann Dale, Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Community Development, Trudeau Fellow (2004), Royal Roads University, School of Environment and Sustainability
Published January 25, 2011
For more than a decade, the City of Malmo has invested in progressive climate change adaptation and mitigation initiatives as it works towards its goal to be a world leader in sustainable urban development. The city has committed to becoming climate neutral by 2020, and by 2030 the city is further committed to energy use based entirely on 100% renewable energy. Malmö is advancing citywide climate change policies, adaptation strategies, education strategies in partnership with the local university, as well as recycling, waste management, biomass, and city beautification projects.
This case study examines the city’s sustainable urban development initiatives and climate change strategies, in particular the redevelopment of a brownfield site located in the Western Harbour District, and the revitalization of an existing housing and industrial estate, the Augustenborg District. A once decaying industrial area, the Western Harbour District has been transformed into a sustainable urban environment with its own energy supply, energy efficient buildings and residences, household, surface and waste management systems, and very few cars. An aging district from the 1950’s, the Augustenborg District has been revitalized into a sustainable urban environment with improved water management, green roofs, renewable energy and recycling projects.
Research revealed that the success of the city’s initiatives is based on a combination of statewide comprehensive legislative and policy leadership, innovative integrated design strategies, stable access to unique funding opportunities, educational programs, and commitment to multi-stakeholder processes that ensures community commitment and implementation. As well, since decision-making is located at the municipal level due to the high level of decentralization in Sweden, Swedish municipalities are able to directly implement projects uniquely designed to meet the needs of their communities, and have access to the necessary funding and political support for local projects.
Sustainable Development Characteristics
Climate change adaptation and mitigation is one of the world’s most critical socio-political imperatives. The need to connect the fields of climate change and sustainable development has been increasingly recognized by many experts and scientific panels (Swart et al., 2003). The Third Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) argued that sustainable development may be the most effective way to frame the mitigation question (Banuri et al., 2001) and a crucial dimension of climate change adaptation and impacts (Smit et al., 2001). And the linkage between climate change and broader issues related to population, lifestyles, environment and development is a constant theme in a recent state-of-the-art review of social science literature relevant to climate change (Rip & Kemp, 1998). Clearly, “integrated policy development may not only provide new opportunities, but may even be a prerequisite for successfully addressing both issues” (Swart et al., 2003: 819), as evidenced in this case study.
Critical Success Factors
Sweden is recognized as one of the most progressive countries in the European Union (EU) for climate change mitigation and adaptation strategies, policies and action. As early as 1991, the Swedish government introduced a carbon tax with the goal of eliminating the country’s dependency on fossil fuel, by 2020. It also developed its first sustainable development strategy in 2002, which included a suite of legislation and financial incentives available to municipalities to implement climate change mitigation and adaptation practices. The EU also provides funding for sustainable urban development initiatives, including funding for educational programs. A key characteristic of the Swedish government’s sustainable development strategy is the system-wide and integrated approach it encourages for the implementation of sustainable development.
Following the collapse of the Kockums shipyards and the closing of the SAAB plant in the Western Harbour, the city council and stakeholders seized the opportunity to develop a clear and well-defined vision for the future City of Malmö. Mayor Ilmar Reepalu calls the development of a vision rather than a plan a significant step “because it demonstrates that adopting a vision gets results.”
As consensus is intrinsic to Swedish policy decision-making, a multi-stakeholder approach was adopted for determining a new vision of the City of Malmö. Stakeholders agreed and committed to the city transforming itself into a centre for knowledge and an eco-city.
As well, the city’s continuing multi-project approach to achieving its vision is regarded by city officials as a major contributor to the progress the city has achieved in a relatively short time.
Community Contact Information
City council and stakeholders developed a clear and well-defined vision of what the City of Malmö should be within a ten-year horizon, i.e., a centre of knowledge and an eco-city. City planners then undertook a number of projects simultaneously designed to realize this vision.
Comprehensive coordination and cross-sectoral integration was critical to mitigating delays in project completion. As well, the multi-stakeholder roundtable developed a comprehensive framework of new sustainable guidelines that directed all project planning. Involving key stakeholders at the early stages was also successful in identifying novel ideas and energy-saving solutions, and ensured that stakeholders were well informed of the new policies and requirements.
The Mayor of Malmö was elected in 1994 and is a champion of sustainable development, thus, there was strong political support and leadership for the multi-stakeholder process that developed the city‘s vision and guided the revitalization and redevelopment projects. Interactive and iterative planning workshops were led with citizens, businesses, construction companies, and the respective government divisions integral to successful project completion.
City departments worked collaboratively on the projects; departments successfully bridged silos and stovepipes (Dale, 2001) that ensured ongoing inter-departmental co-ordination, as well as open discussion and communication on the project implementation. Sustainable development was integrated into every department’s policy decision-making, and there was strong interdepartmental co-operation between the environmental, the planning, and the property departments.
What Didn’t Work
Initially, the projected data for energy consumption and savings for the Western Harbour projects did not correlate to projected estimates after the buildings were constructed and operational as builders used different standards and methods for calculating energy efficiencies. City planners subsequently introduced uniform standards and measurement methodology to ensure consistent methodology for information gathering and reporting.
Education and information are seen as essential to successful adaptation. Initially, the city used two methods for educating citizens about the recycling, biking, public transportation, and other sustainable programs in Western Harbour. A website allowing citizens to email with questions or concern was implemented in 2000, however, the website did not see much engagement as daily use of the Internet was not as prevalent as today. The second method was to locate information officers in the city core to provide information about the new programs. Information officers, however, were in place for only the first year or two of a new program. After two years, the promotional information was no longer available to new residents, so in the early years, there was a discontinuity in the education and information. The city now uses a variety of methods to educate and inform both citizens and visitors to the city and to improve its citizens’ understanding and commitment to sustainable development such as educational materials in the local schools, a newsletter on greening issues, exhibits in the Malmö Museum, and an expanded promotional website.
Financial Costs and Funding Sources
The City of Malmö has access to a variety of financial grants and funding for adaptation initiatives from the EU or the Swedish government. Numerous EU-financed projects have been implemented in the city within the areas of technology and environment, culture, labour market, sustainable city planning, social issues and education. For example, the city accesses the EU’s Green Tools for Urban Climate Adaptation funding program for the installation of the green facades and rooftops in Malmö, which reduce the effects of flooding and heat waves caused by climate change. Over the years, the EU has also provided funding for educational and communication programs.
The Swedish government has various funding programs to accelerate sustainable urban development at the municipal level. For example, Sweden’s Local Initiatives Program (LIP) provides grants to mitigate local environmental problems. The LIP provides funding normally up to 30% of the project and is cost-shared with business and the municipality. Certain aspects of the Western Harbour and the Augustenborg projects were funded in part by the LIP, and cost-shared with business and the City of Malmö. Malmö also receives ongoing state funding for some of its sustainable development programs.
An extensive literature review was conducted of the Swedish government’s and the city’s documents, and website information. Semi-structured open-ended interviews were designed to identify how barriers were overcome, and to explore the social, political and financial contexts behind Malmo’s leadership in sustainable development. Interviews were conducted with officials from the city’s Environment Department and the Sustainable Urban Development Unit, and the Institute for Sustainable Urban Development.
Detailed Case Background Description
In 1991, Sweden introduced the world’s first carbon tax. Consumers are taxed on their oil use, while the application to industry has varied over the years (from partial tax to some industries being exempt). December 14, 2010, the Minister of the Environment announced that with 2009 emissions falling by a further 3.5 million tons of carbon dioxide, that emissions have now dropped by a total of around 17 per cent since 1990. This reduction has been achieved without affecting economic growth as the Swedish economy grew an average of 2.3% annually from 1990 to 2007. Decreases in emissions have been realized in the residential and service, agriculture and waste sectors and not in the industries or transport sector, which have increased.
While the Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren has stated that the “…carbon emissions would have been 20% higher without the carbon tax”, it is only one of the tools in the Swedish government’s sustainable strategy. The first National Strategy for Sustainable Development published in 2002 (revised in 2004 and 2006, and to be revised in 2010) describes the Swedish approach for integrating the social, cultural, economic and ecological aspects. The Swedish government supports sustainable development by means of economic instruments and legislation, and other various tools including planning documentation and methods for analysis and assessment.
Significant to this case study, the Swedish government’s sustainability development strategy encourages a holistic approach to spatial planning and not just the physical environment alone, and calls for engaging the public, business, civil society, organizations, and citizens in the decision-making, coordination, thus building on synergies. The government’s policy is that new urban developments and the revitalization of existing urban areas should be based on sustainable development and it provides municipalities with the knowledge, tools and financing to achieve this.
The City of Malmö, Sweden’s third largest city, is located in the southern part of the country, on the ocean and across the Oresund strait from the City of Copenhagen, Denmark. Completed in 2000, the Oresund Bridge connects the two cities with a twin-track railway and daily commuter trains. The City of Malmö is considered Sweden’s most culturally diverse city with over 170 different ethnic groups represented and has a population of approximately 293,883. Population growth is estimated at 50,000 annually and densification and social cohesion are concerns.
With the collapse of the Kockums shipyard in the early 1980’s, the local economy faltered, unemployment rates were high, and the City of Malmö searched for ways to attract new industries, create new jobs and revitalize the city landscape. The entire town, business community and associations, political parties, and other stakeholders were invited to join the city council in creating a vision of what the city would be in ten years. The consensus vision was to transform the City of Malmö into a knowledge and residential area, and eco-city, starting with the former Kockums industrial site. Now called the Western Harbour, this district of approximately 140 hectares would be transformed from a heavy-duty industrial area into a diversified conurbation with space for attractive homes, businesses, schools, service facilities, parks and green spaces. Emphasis was placed on incorporating the area's proximity to water and on providing all citizens with access to the sea.
The first knowledge transformation project was the completion of the new University of Malmö, located in the Western Harbour, in 1998 with an enrollment of 25,000 students. The first phase of urban development in Western Harbour started in 2001 with a residential housing demonstration project built to coincide with the holding of the European Housing Exhibition -- Bo01 Expo. This demonstration project of 350 apartments showcased a renewable energy system; all of the demonstration housing’s energy is produced locally. Building on the success of this demonstration project, the city has continued to introduce new forms of renewable energy over the years such as wind and solar power and ground and seawater heat extraction, in Western Harbour and other areas of the city.
All of the Bo01 houses were built to the standards set out in the quality program jointly established by Bo01 Expo, the property developers, and the City of Malmö. The program set guidelines for architectural qualities, sustainable choice of materials, energy consumption, green issues and technical infrastructure designed to ensure that buildings were built and continued to operate as sustainably as possible. The Flagghusen Quarter, the second large-scale urban development in the Western Harbour stresses environment, energy and quality aspirations, whilst incorporating affordability — demonstrating that sustainable construction does not have to be expensive. Flagghusen included two passive buildings i.e. buildings that are heated by warmth from human bodies, electrical apparatus, lighting and solar radiation. The goal is that 30 percent of new buildings constructed in Western Harbour will fulfill the requirements to be termed passive buildings. The Fullriggaren Quarter, the third urban development in the Western Harbour functions as a link between existing areas to the west, east and south to create a cohesive urban area.
Planned as a standalone community with close access to goods and services, the Western Harbour District has virtually no cars. Most residents park their vehicles outside the area and walk to their homes. Bicycles and pedestrians have priority within Western Harbour, and the harbour area can be easily reached from the other suburbs of Malmö by biogas buses operated by the local public transport company. Municipal regulation is designed to encourage sustainable transportation such as allowing free parking for electric cars while charging high parking fees for fossil fuel cars.
Significantly, the Western Harbour itself has been cleaned. Waste is no longer deposited in the water, and the harbour is now a public swimming area for citizens in the summer. Households sort their food waste, which is then sent to the local municipal waste treatment company where the organic fractions are digested for biogas production and the rest is incinerated for heat and electricity production.
Launched in 1998, the Augustenborg project was the revitalization of an existing housing and industrial district originally built in the 1950s. One of the key aims of the city was to involve residents as much as possible in the process, from the conceptual stage through implementation, to create a sustainable city district through consensus around the integration of ecological, social and economic imperatives. Each project required the commitment of the residents to succeed. Once implemented, projects were modified with the residents’ feedback on expectations and performance.
The Augustenborg residents identified housing as their key issue and the city worked extensively with them to identify the critical housing preferences and with architects and construction companies to identify solutions. Residents identified energy efficient and comfortable homes, areas with a lot of green space and nearby attractive outdoors areas as priorities. Architects worked directly with construction companies to retrofit buildings that met the city’s objectives of energy efficiency and the residents’ priorities and which balanced the built and the non-built environments.
To reduce recurring flooding in the Augustenborg District, a significant problem in the area and one of the contributors to a high tenant turnover rate, initially an open stormwater runoff system was introduced to divert runoff into canals and ponds. Canals, dams and ponds are now connected throughout the city and stormwater runoff is cleaned by natural flora before reaching the sea. The city now diverts 90% of the stormwater runoff into the stormwater runoff system.
Begun in 1999, the aim of the city’s green roof project was to produce a new method of managing rainwater. Augustenborg District now has 9,000 m2 of grass-covered roofs offering multiple advantages such as helping to prevent flooding by curbing rainwater runoff, cleaning the air, increasing biodiversity, and providing energy-saving insulation. Situated in Augustenborg, the Scandinavian Green Roof Institute provides information and inspiration for the inhabitants of the city, and other locales within Sweden and the EU to adopt green roof technology. The green roof concept has developed considerably since its inception in the Augustenborg District. Today, Malmö is currently the leading city in Sweden for investments in green roofs, which are regarded as an important part of the city’s efforts to create sustainable urban development and climate change mitigation.
The city works with a variety of stakeholders to achieve the goals of energy-efficient buildings, public transportation, an extensive biking infrastructure, and waste management infrastructure. City builders must consider and apply the ‘green space factor’ to nearly all projects. The green space factor policy has led to not only yards and gardens with lush green vegetation, but also the roofs and facades of houses are covered with plants that encourage bio-diversity, facilitate rainwater management and contribute to a pleasant, recreational environment. Municipal green space has also been designed and introduced throughout the city to the extent that the city is frequently called the ‘City of Parks’. City parks and green spaces are designed with an emphasis on natural diversity to allow for habitat for a variety of local species and the city has installed bird and bat boxes to help improve the urban forest and species environment.
In 2008, the Augustenborg District introduced a pilot to study separating food waste to make biogas. Today, there are 15 recycling houses in the Augustenborg District for residents to dispose of food waste and the district recycles 65% of its household and school waste for use by the local energy utility to produce biogas. The city is expanding its waste management infrastructure and renewable energy projects and has reached 70% of its 90% target to recycle all waste within the city.
The City of Malmö has received a number of awards and international attention for its sustainable development efforts. The EU named the Western Harbour transformation as the best example of a successful regeneration from a polluted, industrial town to a sustainable residential area of outstanding quality in the world. In 2010, the Building Exchange, a major European industry meeting awarded the city the Best Master Plan for Bo01 and the Western Harbour area. In 2009, the city received the United Nations’ Habitat Scroll of Honour for its efforts in sustainable development, and was recently awarded the United Nations World Habitat Award for its work on revitalizing the Augustenborg District. In 2009, the business journal FAST COMPANY ranked Malmö as one of the 13 most creative cities in the world.
The City of Malmö’s stated goal is to be climate neutral by 2020, and by 2030 the whole municipality will run on 100% renewable energy through projects such as wind and solar energy expansions, as well as increased electric public transport. Recently, the Swedish government made statements that nuclear expansion (up to 10 new plants added to the ones in existence) will be needed if Sweden is to achieve its fossil-free goal of 2020, which has other implications for its future sustainable development, with respect to the risk and management of used nuclear fuel.
Malmö sees its progressive environmental agenda as paying off not only from an ecological perspective but also from social and economic perspectives. The city now works with other international cities to share insights and information on sustainable development and promotes its expertise abroad. Malmö’s Western Harbour and Augustenborg Districts are key tourist attractions, contributing to a more diverse economic base for the city. International tourists visit the Western Harbour and Augustenborg Districts, its museums and other institutions for guided tours on how to build in a climate-friendly manner adapted to the environment.
Adaptability to the Canadian Context
This case study highlights the importance of the following factors for meaningful implementation and exploitation of best practices at national and local levels.
Developing a national vision and leadership across the country.
Creating a national sustainable development strategy, which includes goals and targets, establishes a legal framework to support the strategy.
Providing national leadership through appropriate financing mechanisms, assessment tools and reporting mechanisms.
Using a systems-wide approach to spatial planning for integrating the economic, social and ecological imperatives at multiple levels of government.
Engaging diverse communities through dynamic ongoing and iterative engagement processes, complimented by education and information programs.
Ensuring implementation at the local level through local autonomy.
Private/public partnerships in the design and implementation of sustainable development projects.
Integrating sustainable development into policy and decision-making and accountabilities.
Using practical demonstration projects to educate and inform the population, to build synergies, and from which to learn and adapt for the different areas of the country.
- Do cities need to create a vision like Malmö’s to implement projects such as green roofs, stormwater diversion, and green spaces? Are goals and targets necessary? What role, if any, does a vision, goal or target play?
- Are there any benefits for Canadian municipalities to adopt the City of Malmö’s sustainable development practices now rather than later?
- Does implementing multiple-projects accelerate progress towards goals? Are there potential hazards to this approach? What would be necessary to successfully implement simultaneous projects?
- Would introducing climate change issues into the public school curriculum be a critical success factor to achieving sustainable development? Are there parallels to be drawn to the education campaign against cigarette smoking?
- Does sustainable development expertise provide a competitive edge? Can it be exported?
I am indebted to the work of my research associate, Elaine Dale, MBA, and to the research assistance of Krista Gallagher in the preparation of this case study.
Resources and References
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