NLC’s delegation to Sweden and Germany kicked off the first day of the trip with a breakfast meeting with Ambassador Brzezinski, the U.S. Ambassador to Sweden, and representatives from U.S. businesses with a presence in Sweden. In his opening remarks the Ambassador underscored the important relationships already present between Sweden and the United States including the Swedish American Green Alliance (s.a.g.a), a sustainability exchange that NLC’s Sustainability Program committed to on its 2010 visit to Sweden. Business representatives discussed the importance and potential growth of partnerships around sustainability, particularly in a time when local governments are looking to attract and retain businesses in a global environment. All delegates presented an overview of the sustainability initiatives in their communities and their commitments to sustainability. Mayor Buol highlighted the city of Dubuque’s Smarter Sustainable Dubuque initiative, and emphasized that the city’s sustainability agenda has been able to thrive because of the commitment of IBM, with whom the city has developed a long- term public- private partnership, and local residents who are committed to sustainability.
The delegation then toured Hammarby Sjöstad, a former industrial district that is now an international model for sustainable, integrated redevelopment. Here, U.S. delegates shared their experiences with the redevelopment of industrial sites, and gained tremendous insights into “The Hammarby Model,” an integrated eco-cycle model to manage energy, waste, water and sewage as efficiently as possible. Delegates walked away reassured that “waste” can in fact be a commodity if it is treated and managed properly. The delegation then visited the headquarters of Forum for Reforms, Entrepreneurship, and Sustainability (FORES), one of Sweden’s leading think tanks on issues related to the environment. During a roundtable discussion the U.S. officials spoke with academics, Swedish members of parliament, Swedish local officials and NGOS, dispelling the notion that the United States is doing little in the way of sustainability.
In the afternoon, delegates visited City Hall to speak with the Vice Mayor for the Environment, Mr. Per Ankersjö. The discussion highlighted that Sweden and the cities represented by the delegation have many similar challenges and opportunities, including the cities’ industrial history and relationship to water. Much of the discussion also focused on job creation and retention. Mayor Coleman of Saint Paul posed the question of how to redevelop industrial sites into livable, thriving communities, while preserving critical manufacturing and other industry-related jobs in the center city. The discussion also touched on the environmental benefits of creating dense urban centers. Mr. Ankersjö stated- and the delegates agreed- that “being ‘green’ is something to be proud of.”
The visit to Stockholm revealed that sustainability is ingrained in the culture and the politics of the city. The sustainability exchange with Sweden continues tomorrow in Malmö, where delegates will meet with the National Association of Swedish Eco-Municipalities; tour the Western Harbor, an industrial park that has been transformed into a sustainable community; and speak with faculty and students of Malmö University.
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