Cities inspiring green innovation
Interview with Anna König Jerlmyr, president of EUROCITIES and mayor of Stockholm.
The city of Stockholm has committed to become fossil fuel free by 2040 – with the city administration anticipating to achieve this feat for its own services by 2030. Anna König Jerlmyr, the recently elected mayor of Stockholm, says that climate was notably a top issue for voters in the campaign. It’s also an area of key importance to König Jerlmyr herself, who plans to tackle other environmental challenges, such as reducing plastic use and waste.
However, in a rapidly expanding city like Stockholm, doing this while managing the different needs of new citizens is a challenge in itself.
“In Stockholm we have seen a significant increase in our population in recent years, yet since 1990 we have managed to reduce our CO2 emissions by 58%. This shows that a city can grow, both in terms of population and prosperity, while tackling climate change.”
© Digital Demo Stockholm
“Stockholm, like many cities, is a real hub for innovation. This helps attract talent and investment from across Europe and further afield. As a city administration we aim to foster this by matchmaking different local actors, connecting them to investors and other opportunities. It’s important for us to be able to use digitalisation and other technologies to find more efficient solutions to common challenges like air pollution.”
As president of EUROCITIES, the network of major cities in Europe, Jerlmyr also works with colleagues across Europe to exchange on these challenges.
“Today, many of Europe’s most pressing challenges are concentrated in cities, but this is also where we see most opportunities. Issues like climate change, rising inequalities and the safety of our public spaces are bigger than all of us and need joint action across cities and different levels of government. Networks like EUROCITIES help create the space for the transfer of knowledge between cities.”
“At the city level we can easily test out new solutions. Through the Stockholm Digital Demo project, for example, we collaborate with local companies and universities, as well as Region Stockholm, to develop digital solutions to challenges that our citizens face in their daily lives. We are currently working on five demo projects focusing on a host of different issues: From the development of smart locks for our elderly to making youth education more accessible, improving traffic flows, reducing energy consumption in healthcare and managing the water quality in our lakes. Looking at water quality for example, digital solutions can be used both to improve operation and maintenance, and to measure quality.”
Stockholm is home to some of the most innovative companies and universities in the world, and as mayor, König Jerlmyr wants to ensure this trend continues.
© Digital Demo Stockholm
“It’s important to engage with local businesses, be it to improve the flow of traffic on our streets, reduce our carbon footprint or make it easier for all our citizens to take an active part in public life. Our cities’ potential for innovation is increased when all citizens are best able to fulfil their potential. That’s why I also see a clear need to address issues like women’s rights and gender equality.”
Clearly, a whole lot of challenges come together in our cities and by working together city changers have the potential to effectively combat these. However, for König Jerlmyr there is also another important factor in this fight:
“We need European leaders to work with us to adopt and implement the vision of a carbon neutral Europe by 2050. This should include policies for cleaner and fewer vehicles in our cities, investment in public transport networks, scale up support for energy transition in urban areas and making a decisive move towards a circular economy.”
“Stockholm is on course to reach its climate targets and is proving how much cities can do to innovate and lead in this area. As CityChangers, we can lead the world.”
I love my city because … “it’s a great place to raise a family! You can live in the middle of Stockholm and still have access to lots of parks and lakes, as well as the sea. Beautiful nature is literally always just around the corner! But Stockholm is also a city that is just bursting with creative, innovative people. It’s so full of energy!”
The best work-related decision I ever took was … “running for mayor of Stockholm, a city with endless potential. Being mayor allows me to improve the living conditions of Stockholmers in a truly meaningful way. And I get to do that by working with some of the most talented, creative and inspiring people in the world. What could be more rewarding than that?”
Everyone can live more sustainably, simply by … “consuming less plastic materials, traveling by public transport or ride sharing schemes, eating less meat and avoiding products with palm oil.”
Every city should … “embolden their people to dream big and to do so with a passion!”