Malmo, Sweden has not waited around biting its nails for global environmental policy to be created. The city has taken the initiative and created the sustainable community of Augustenborg. Augustenborg was originally a built by the city of Malmo in partnership with a publicly owned housing company called MKB. The project was aimed at solving the economic stratification within city. They were built for the working class and remained affordable in price. After about ten years the buildings were not considered modern anymore and became a haven for the unemployed with massive social and economic problems. In the early 1990’s the city decided that these problems arising from the community were unacceptable and ultimately decided to renovate the area. Interestingly enough Malmo transformed the building project into a community project by focusing on the local residents, holding meetings, and involving the community. With the help of funding from the Swedish Government the community produced a prosperous sustainable neighborhood. In order to avoid the gentrification of this desirable eco-city and force low-income inhabitants out of the neighborhood, the city maintained low rent in the buildings. This was possible because the MKB is a government owned facility. Today there is a two year waiting list to live at Augustenborg. Due to this extremely high demand and comparably low rent the current community of Augustenborg sustains a range of economic statuses and backgrounds. Malmo stands as a remarkable example of what people are capable of if they cooperate and portrays that sustainability is functional within an urban environment.
Until walking through the uniquely designed eco-friendly city of Augustenborg covered by green roofs and heated through incomparably efficient solar power such ideas of sustainability seem to be unreachable and unachievable to the public in large. The tour left me standing almost speechless; the prospects behind this thriving green community are unbearably simple and seem to reflect a glimmer of a human instinct that has been lost in time. Who wouldn’t want to live surrounded by greenery and have access to an incredibly efficient water management in their building? Countries everywhere should take a hint from the community project in Malmo. They would learn a number of invaluable lessons including how to create community solidarity, how to implement green technologies successfully, and how to foster respect for the environment.
We have forgotten how to live simultaneously with our environment allowing both nature and humans to flourish and prosper. Augustenborg has mastered this art and was designed by a community who possessed the passion and enthusiasm to create a sustainable city. Being green and in touch with the Earth has been a taboo for years and effective policy creation for climate change has become overshadowed by political pride, unfair distribution of power, and petty grudges. These distractions leave little room for true environmental passion to be illuminated. Augustenborg has proven society that green technologies are accessible and sustainability is a possibility today, all it takes is a little creativity and a communal decision that society supports and practices eco-friendly living.
The European Union hosted a seminar at the Copenhagen climate talks today that discussed efforts underway in Sweden to develop sustainable cities.
The presentation included Swedish representatives of various levels of government–from the EU down to municipal officials. Most compelling were the stories told about sustainable urbanism in the capital city of Stockholm and the southwestern city of Malmö.
Stockholm is the first city to be designated a European Green Capital by the European Commission. This award recognizes local efforts to minimize environmental impact. Deputy Mayor Ulla Hamilton discussed the city’s efforts to reach a 3 metric tonne per capita CO2 emissions rate by 2050. Unlike North American cities where development tends to sprawl out from urban centers, Stockholm’s model has been to grow through infill and redevelopment.
One of the city’s development planners, Olle Cyren, described two development efforts: the first was Hammarby Sjöstad, which is looking to emit 50% less GHGs than a comparable development from 1990. The second example discussed was the Royal Seaport, which is one of the largest real estate developments in Europe with 10,000 residential units and room for 30,000 workers. This site is attempting to reach a per capita level of emissions of 2.5 tonnes–as a point of comparison, the US per capita level is about 20 tonnes!
The final presenter was Anders Rubin a Deputy Mayor from the city of Malmö. Malmö is situated across the Öresund sound from Copenhagen. Rubin charted the history of Malmö from its heyday as a shipping port and center of industry in the post-War era to a victim of deindustrialization where during the first three years of the 1990s the city lost a third of its jobs.
With a depressed economy and a shrinking population Malmö more or less had a “blank slate” for redevelopment, which city leaders chose to pursue with a decidedly green agenda.
They were helped quite a bit by the building of the Öresund Bridge in 2000, which improved transport links to Copenhagen. The inevitable growth that accompanies a large infrastructure project like a bridge was coordinated with the introduction of green technology. According to Rubin, half of Sweden’s solar electricity is produced in Malmö and he described a strategy of making rooftop solar panels especially conspicuous to provide the city with a distinct identity. The city also boasts 40% of its population reporting that they commute to school or work by cycling.
These types of examples contradict the false idea that economic and urban growth MUST follow a high-carbon model. Lessons learned from cases in Sweden can be especially valuable for US cities as they start to develop low-carbon policies.