Covenant of Mayors
  Covenant Newsletter October 2012  
Prospects for a low-carbon society
{{{Interview with Anneli Hulthén, Mayor of Gothenburg, Sweden.}}} In the vibrant city of Gothenburg, every opportunity is taken to tackle CO2 emissions, boost local development and improve the quality of services delivered to citizens. Boasting a well-functioning district heating system largely based on surplus heat, the city is also championing sustainable mobility, with plans to introduce a congestion charging system and ongoing initiatives promoting new business opportunities.

How is Gothenburg contributing to the Covenant of Mayors overall philosophy of improved quality of life and economic development through sustainable energy planning ? Can you share some key figures/results in this respect ?

We believe that the Covenant of Mayors is contributing to improved quality of life across the European Union. We have set ourselves ambitious goals to limit the effects of climate change whilst promoting smart and inclusive growth throughout the city. I would like to highlight a few examples :

Gothenburg is the second largest city in Sweden, and its sewage water treatment system, generates some 65 GWh of energy from biogas, or the equivalent of 11 liters of petrol per person connected to the system. Since 2007, the biogas is cleaned, upgraded and injected to the natural gas grid. The biogas is then sold, via the natural gas grid, almost exclusively to cars and buses in Gothenburg area. This motor fuel was awarded with Svanen, the Nordic equivalent to the EU flower eco-label in 2008. It was the first ever to receive an eco label. The CO2 savings amount to some 18,000 tonnes annually, from the avoided use of diesel or petrol.

Another example is Gothenburg’s district heating system, which meets over 80 % of the total heating demand. The district heating grid is supplied by a variety of sources, to the largest part surplus heat recovered form industrial processes such as power generation, refineries and waste incineration. Only a minor part of the energy mix is constituted of primary energy, and that is predominantly low quality biomass in the form of wood chips. Thus some 0,5 Mtoe of primary energy is saved, and CO2 emissions from district heating are close to zero.

We are also tackling the challenge of urban mobility to increase energy efficiency in the transport sector and achieve better air quality throughout the city. On 1 January 2013 we plan to introduce a congestion charging system that will help relieve the city from traffic-related issues. The funds raised will be invested in a more efficient infrastructure for public transport, cycling and cars. By pioneering the development of new technologies, ICT and services for urban mobility, we create new sectors of economic activity. One example is the initiative Climate Smart City Distribution, through which the city, businesses and academia have found energy and cost-efficient solutions to coordinate the distribution of goods in Gothenburg, leading to new business opportunities, better environmental performance and new services in the city center.

Gothenburg’s SEAP has been accepted by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commision. How does it fit within the city overall sustainable development strategy ? Do you have any recommendation to make to other Covenant of Mayors Signatories regarding BEI/SEAP development ?

You could say that the SEAP is a tool that encompasses the various efforts we undertake and it has become an integrated part of our overall environment, energy and climate mitigation strategies. We are a partner of the EU Smart Cities STEP-UP project , in the framework of which we will compare our SEAP with that of partner cities to further integrate energy planning into the overall city development plans.

Gothenburg’s climate target for 2050 is to have a fair, close to zero-carbon society. In order to achieve this we need to further brainstorm on how to reach this goal. We are currently conducting this research through Mistra Urban Futures where scenarios for 2050 are being elaborated looking also at impacts on our quality of life and wellbeing. Our SEAP is a vital part for our long-term work and strategy development.

For those cities currently working on their SEAPs I would like to recommend to be very clear about the baseline figures used and the information collected in order to facilitate realistic benchmarking with other action plans. For us, the SEAP is not a marketing tool but an instrument that we want to draw comparisons with the good work other cities are involved in, discuss lessons learnt, exchange best practices and adjust our plans where necessary.

At the occasion of the Covenant of Mayors Open Days event, several signatories called for greater control over the management of EU funding, specifically related to sustainable energy. What is your opinion on this topic ? Do you have any specific message to address to EU institution ?

Today, some 70% of the European population lives in cities and the urbanisation rate is expected to rise. Cities are the engines for growth in Europe but are also at the forefront of challenges like climate change and social inclusion. Any initiative that wants to foster growth and tackle societal issues needs to address the urban agenda. We therefore believe that the cohesion funds and programmes like Horizon 2020 need to be designed in a way that enables cities to directly participate in the programmes. The opportunity to carry out projects financed by the structural funds is a prerequisite for cities to be able to meet future challenges and contribute to achieving the vision set in the Europe 2020 strategy. Likewise, initiatives like the Smart Cities and Communities, several projects of which Gothenburg is engaged in, are good examples where cities can play a key role in projects that will contribute to reaching the EU2020 goals of smart, sustainable and inclusive growth. A strong role of cities needs to be safeguarded to ensure a lasting impact to this initiative !

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  The sole responsibility for the content of this newsletter lies with the Covenant of Mayors Office. It does not necessary reflect the opinion of the European Union. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information contained therein. The Covenant of Mayors was set up with financial support of the European Commission and consists of five associations of European local authorities: Energy Cities, Climate Alliance, Eurocities, CEMR, Fedarene, and ICLEI Europe.

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