Stockholm is one of the cleanest capitals in the world. It is a city close to water and green areas. However, the situation was once very different. In the 1940s, Riddarfjärden was extremely polluted and called the 'sewage ditch'. It is now possible to swim in the central parts of Stockholm.
A well-developed district heating network has resulted in a major reduction in air pollution, which caused major problems in the past. The biggest challenges the City is now facing in terms of air quality are high levels of particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide on the busiest streets.
Stockholm is also one of Europe's leading climate cities. Since 1990, the City’s climate impact and greenhouse gas emissions have decreased by more than half, while the City has grown and increased its population significantly during this time. For decades, we have been working strategically to reduce the City’s impact on the climate and the environment.
Climate Contracts and Mission Label
In 2020, the City of Stockholm, along with eight other cities, signed the first climate contracts at the Swedish level. The contract has been renewed every year since then. Through the contract, the city undertakes to invest in and accelerate climate and sustainability work.
The Swedish climate contract is in line with the EU’s work on climate-neutral cities. In the spring of 2023, Stockholm was adopted as one of 100 selected climate cities in the EU. These cities will strengthen the work and contribute to faster transition throughout the union. This is done, among other things, by the city clarifying activities, investments, and collaborations needed to achieve climate neutrality in an EU-level climate contract. This also creates good opportunities for developed European cooperation.
In the fall of 2023, Stockholm city received a so-called Mission Label as one of ten cities, indicating that the city's plan for climate positivity has been approved by the EU Commission.
In 2010 Stockholm was recognized as the very first European Green Capital.
Ambitious environmental and climate goals
On the 25th of May 2020, the City Council adopted an environment programme for 2020-2023, and a climate action plan for the same period. The City’s environment programme formulates the highest priority goals for Stockholm’s environment in the long term, i.e. until 2030 or longer:
- A fossil-free and climate-positive Stockholm by 2040 (see also below)
- A fossil-free organisation by 2030
- A climate-adapted Stockholm
- A resource-smart Stockholm
- A Stockholm with biodiversity in well-functioning and cohesive ecosystems
- A Stockholm with clean air and a good sound environment
- A toxin-free Stockholm
The priority goals individually include a number of milestones for the 2020–2023 programme period. Overall, the Environment Programme sets out the priority goals for Stockholm’s living environment, 16 milestones and proposals for indicators. This clarification of the long- and short-term goals is intended to give a clear picture of how the city ensures long-term sustainable development.
Greenhouse gas emissions are not decreasing, globally or nationally, to the extent required. The climate issue is increasingly dominating environmental work. The environment programme is therefore proposing increased ambitions for climate work, not only with a higher goal for reduced emissions, but also through the inclusion of measures aimed at reducing the climate impact of consumption.
The climate action plan – For a fossil-free, climate-positive Stockholm in 2040 – specifies how the City aims to achieve its ambitious climate goals, set out in the environment programme.
The climate action plan also expresses the City’s climate budget, which shows the remaining emissions by 2040, in the form of an ambition of a maximum permitted level of emissions of 19 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents during the period 2020–2040.
Raised ambitions, and a new environment programme on its way
In Stockholm’s budget for 2023, the ambitions were raised further. Through reduced emissions and increased carbon sequestration, Stockholm aims to be climate-positive by 2030. The City of Stockholm as an organization should be completely fossil-free by 2030 and Stockholm should be completely fossil-free by 2040.
Work is now underway to develop a new environment programme for the next programme period. The climate action plan will also be revised. The new policy documents will take into account the raised ambitions and sharper goals.
Smart, fossil-free and climate-positive Stockholm
In a climate-smart Stockholm, we reduce our climate impact by not using fossil fuels. We use renewable and recycled energy from district heating and in our electricity consumption, and travel climate-smart by public transport, bicycle or clean vehicles.
The City of Stockholm’s climate action plan makes the City “Paris-compliant”, which means that Stockholm meets the requirements set for all countries on Earth in the global climate agreement.
Sustainable energy consumption
The energy supply in Stockholm is increasingly based on renewable energy. 80 percent of heating needs are covered by district heating and 15 percent by electricity. More efficient energy consumption and renewable energy sources are needed in order to reduce the greenhouse effect.
The Energy Centre at the Environment Department support the City’s departments and companies in their work to reduce energy consumption. The energy and climate advisory service in the Environment Department is for private individuals, associations and companies, and can receive tips and advice on how to reduce energy consumption and environmental impact.
Sustainable transport operations
Stockholmer’s make two million trips every day. The negative consequences of road traffic are congestion, air pollution and climate impact. The City of Stockholm’s environment programme includes five interim goals for environmentally adapted transport. The City’s accessibility strategy describes how residents can increase walking, cycling and using public transport in order to reduce congestion, climate and environmental impact.
Stockholm adapted to a changing climate
Reducing climate impact is as important as adapting the City to the climate changes. Adapting a society to climate change means taking measures to protect people and the environment from the consequences that climate change bring. Stockholm needs to be prepared to handle, for example, high water levels, prolonged heat waves or sudden downpours in such a way that residents and businesses are affected as little as possible. In the continued construction of the City the risk of flooding must be minimised, both in the event of rain and in the event when the water level rises in Lake Mälaren and the Baltic.
Several projects adapting the City to climate change are in progress or are completed.
The air in Stockholm has become much better over the past fifty years. Air pollution that previously caused major problems – sulphur dioxide, lead, carbon monoxide, benzene and others – is now managed. The most important explanation is the expanded district heating network, although less sulphur and lead in fuel have also contributed. Eight out of ten of the City’s homes connect to the district heating network, and 83 percent of the heating is fossil fuel-free.
The City is a member of the East Sweden Air Quality Management Association, which monitors, analyses and describes air quality. The association’s environmental monitoring system is operated by SLB-analys, which is a division within the Environment and Health Department in the City of Stockholm.
Noise is one of the biggest environmental problems in Stockholm, and the City has been working for a long time to limit ambient noise. Some of the most important initiatives are protective measures in the form of façade insulation for the most vulnerable homes and the construction of sound shields. Since this work began in the 1970s, up to 60,000 residents have benefited from an improved indoor sound environment. In the latest action plan for noise for 2019–2023, the focus is also on reducing noise at source. Examples of such measures might be to change the road surface to a more low-noise variant.
Clean drinking water is important to Stockholmers, but so is swimming, fishing and sailing. Clean water is a heritage that we must cherish and preserve. In Stockholm, there is an action plan to ensure that lakes, coastal waters and watercourses meet the EU’s environmental quality standards. Local action programmes will be prepared for all the City’s lakes, watercourses and coastal waters.
Every single Swede produces about half a tonne of rubbish annually. It is important to reduce this volume and make sure that the waste generated is disposed properly. One of the goals of the City’s environment programme is to increase Stockholm’s collection of food waste to 70 percent.
The City of Stockholm has a chemicals plan that describes how the City’s operations are to work towards the vision of a non-toxic Stockholm. The City’s organisation includes the Chemicals Centre at the Environment and Health Department, with specialist expertise in chemistry and ecotoxicology. It supports the City’s departments and companies to enable them to minimise their use of chemicals and follow the City’s chemicals plan.
The City’s work in the environmental and climate area affects and inspires leaders around the world, and the City of Stockholm is happy to share experiences with others. The City is involved in a number of international organisations in the climate and environmental field. Not only to share experiences with others, but also to influence decisions made at EU level in order to safeguard the interests of Stockholmers.
Among the specialist departments, the Environment and Health Department has a commission to support other departments and companies to achieve the goals of the City’s climate and environmental work.
C40’s Global Green New Deal
The City of Stockholm is behind the Global Green New Deal initiative, which provides a framework describing how cities need to work to respond to the global climate crisis. The initiative has been developed by the global network C40. The City of Stockholm has been a member since 2007 and brings together the largest cities in the world to combat climate change.
The initiative was presented on October 9th 2019. It is about recognising that the world is facing a climate emergency. The initiative aims to bring together those who are willing to deliver emission reductions in line with the 1.5-degree goal, protect the environment and build a fairer future, while still strengthening the economy.
Viable Cities is a strategic innovation programme for smart and sustainable cities. It is the biggest initiative ever undertaken in Sweden in the field of research and innovation concerning smart and sustainable cities. KTH is the programmes host organisation. The programme gathers some 100 member organisations from industry, academia, public sector and civil society organisations. Viable Cities has a mission to achieve climate-neutral cities by 2030. The City represents the executive board through the City Executive Office.
Environmentally smart Stockholmers
Stockholmers play an important role in climate and environmental work. The choices made by Stockholmers play a major role in how the City can continue to be prominent in terms of climate and the environment.
The Environment and Health Department conducts annual questionnaires on the environment and environmental habits in Stockholm. These surveys provide answers about how attitudes, knowledge and habits of Stockholmers look and change over time.
The City also communicates with Stockholmers to increase knowledge of the residents’ own climate impact and to provide tools to reduce it.
The Environment Barometer
The Environment Barometer (Miljöbarometern) presents facts about the environment in Stockholm. It also provides information about climate change and climate adaptation, as well as answers to a variety of environmental questions about the City. How high are greenhouse gas emissions? Which lake has the best water quality? Is the air getting cleaner? How many people use public transport?
The Environment Barometer also contains information about Stockholm’s downpour model. It is used to plan new buildings with consideration of the risks that might be posed by different weather and ground conditions.
The City’s environment programme for the period 2020–2023 formulates goals in the areas where the challenges for Stockholm are the greatest. Examples of this are climate impact, climate adaptation, resource management and circular economy, biodiversity, and harmful discharges and emissions.
Climate Action Plan 2020–2023
The Climate Action Plan 2020–2023 – for a fossil-free, climate-positive Stockholm in 2040 – specifies how the City aims to achieve its climate goals for reduced climate impact, as set out in the environment programme for the same period.