Monday, January 18, 2010

Nordic cities dominate Green City Index

ENVIRONMENT. With more than 50 percent of the world’s population living in urban areas, producing 80 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, it is clear that the future global environment depends very much on how cities and their leaders and inhabitants act.
Fortunately, positive steps are taken on a city level, while national leaders continue to find details to disagree on at the global level.
In a study assessing the environmental impact of Europe’s major cities, four Nordic capitals dominate the European Green City Index. Danish capital Copenhagen tops the list just before its Swedish counterpart Stockholm. Norwegian capital Oslo is in third place, while Helsinki in Finland is in seventh place.
The research project, which rates and measures environmental performance of 30 leading European cities from 30 countries, is conducted by the Economist Intelligence Unit and is sponsored by Siemens. Read more here.
Top ten cities in the overall ratings were: Copenhagen, Stockholm, Oslo, Vienna, Amsterdam, Zürich, Helsinki, Berlin, Brussels and Paris.

Smart waste management in Stockholm.

Reports from the battle of Scandinavia

BACKGROUND. Last week Stockholm officially kicked off its year as European Green Capital 2010. The Swedish capital is the first city being honoured by the European Commission with this prestigious award.
Last month all eyes were focused on Denmark and Copenhagen when the self-proclaimed Climate Capital of the World hosted the United Nations Climate Summit. World leaders may have failed at the summit, but the Danish capital reached new heights in its ambition to be an international role model for modern and ecologically conscious urban development.
Stockholm and Copenhagen are two lovely cities locked in a friendly battle over the title “Capital of Scandinavia”, already used by Stockholm as an official slogan but increasingly claimed by Copenhagen when it comes to world attention for its merits.
This “battle of Scandinavia” led me to a project I’m working on, partly funded by a journalism grant from the Nordic Council (an inter-governmental forum for cooperation between the governments of the Nordic countries).
Last fall I set out to study how the Nordic capitals, mainly Copenhagen and Stockholm, have claimed positions as international role models when it comes to modern urban development in a world focused on a sustainable future.
The Nordic capitals are small cities by global standards and have fewer problems to deal with than its bigger counterparts in other countries. This is of course an advantage, but not the reason why many cities look to the north for inspiration when it comes to sustainable city development.
In the months to come I will write a lot about ongoing development and plans in Stockholm and Copenhagen. I will also visit the Norwegian capital Oslo, getting ready to challenge its Scandinavian counterparts with exciting projects following the spectacular new Opera house now rising out the waters of the Oslo fjord. Then we have Helsinki, the Finnish capital, getting ready to be the World Design Capital 2012.

Climate Capital no 1: Copenhagen.

Climate Capital no 2: Stockholm

Certain notebooks and other stuff I like

BACKGROUND. Sometimes I feel like a character out of the popular blog Stuff White People Like, a satirical look at the overambitious, conscious, modern city dweller. The list of observations hits right on target in more ways than I would like to admit.
I enjoy living by the water (stuff #51), in an on-going harbour development of the kind you will find in most cities located by a lake or the sea. As a journalist I have been travelling (#19) the world for over 30 years, occasionally taking notes in a Moleskine notebook (#122).
I’m taking a year off (#120), sort of, at a point in my professional life when it’s time to finally do some things that I really enjoy. One of those pleasures is seeing exciting architecture (#34) and cities revitalized through careful gentrification (#73).
I like America (#114) and last October when I visited Chicago I finally got a chance to go to Wrigley Field (#30) for a baseball game. Even though I have no reason threatening to move to Canada (#75) I wouldn’t mind being part of the great diversity (#7) in cities like Toronto or Vancouver.
As a journalist rooted in the old media, I enjoy when I get a chance to read the paper version of the Sunday New York Times (#46) while sipping a cup of good coffee (#1) in a neighbourhood café of a world metropolis.
More than enough said. You get the point.

Looking for visions of the urban future

BACKGROUND. My name is Anders Steinvall. I’m a veteran Swedish journalist and editor with an interest in cities and their ambitions for the urban future.
I spent 22 years as a reporter and editor at the Dagens Nyheter, the leading national newspaper of Sweden, where I covered everything from Olympic Games to international conflicts. I worked as a foreign correspondent in Moscow during the turbulent years when the Soviet Union fell apart.
I have also been executive editor of a local newspaper in Northern Sweden. I now work as a freelance writer.
Over the years I have visited more than a hundred major cities around the world, on assignment or as a tourist. I enjoy taking long walks in the urban jungle more than anything else.
With so much of the world’s future depending on how cities act and develop, I’ve become more and more interested in the visions of city leaders, planners, architects and others who shape the urban landscape we live in.
That led me to writing this blog. I hope you will find it worth reading.

Urban future in the great crystal ball...

...called Cloud Gate in Chicago's Millennium Park.