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About Viable Cities

Viable Cities aims to create transformative systemic change based on the mission of Climate Neutral Cities 2030 with a good life for all within the boundaries of the planet.

Viable Cities' mission is Climate Neutral Cities 2030 with a good life for all within the limits of the planet. Together with cities - municipalities, business, academia and civil society - and government agencies we work together to create ecologically, economically and socially sustainable cities. Cities that work well for the people who live in them, that are good for the economy of citizens, businesses and society - and - that are good for the climate and our planet.

Viable Cities takes a holistic approach to sustainable urban development. This means that we assume that everyone in society must be involved in order to make the necessary changes: entrepreneurs and researchers, politicians and civil servants, organizations and ordinary people. We believe that it is particularly important for citizens to be involved in the work if it is to succeed, and that digitization and digital tools can contribute to the major change in various ways. The initiatives in Viable Cities are based on a mission-oriented approach where key initiatives are Climate City Contract 2030, mission infrastructure for coordination and support, system demonstrators for experimentation and implementation, and Transition Lab for orchestration and reflexive learning.

We see climate change as a symptom of structural problems in the economy and social systems. The magnitude of the challenges we face as a civilization will mean that many governments will make significant investments in the transition (so-called Transitional Capital, e.g. Green Deal for Europe). Within Viable Cities, we intend to use our budget as a catalyst to build societal, political and operational capacity to invest capital in the best possible way to create climate-neutral cities by 2030 with a good life for all within the boundaries of the planet. To preserve and develop our democracy, this transition needs to be a co-creative process.

The purpose of Viable Cities is to create transformative systemic change based on the mission of Climate Neutral Cities 2030 with a good life for all within the boundaries of the planet. The mission implies that the climate transition of cities should take place from a broad perspective, where social, ecological and economic sustainability are simultaneously considered.

This is in line with the global sustainability goals of the UN's 2030 Agenda, which is a starting point for many Swedish cities' climate and sustainability work. The 2030 Agenda can be seen as an implementation plan for the Paris Agreement's climate change commitments. The mission is also in line with the Swedish environmental goals and the climate policy framework with no net emissions of greenhouse gases in Sweden by 2045, as well as the EU's goal of climate neutrality by 2050. 

By leading the transition, through co-creation and learning with cities and actors in other countries and at the international level, Viable Cities strives to fulfill the vision that Sweden inspires and has a leading role in the energy and climate transition through climate neutral and sustainable cities. 

International

With the mission of climate-neutral cities as its north star, the transition is happening all over the world, at multiple levels, and Viable Cities is constantly creating, building and strengthening partnerships to increase the momentum for it. We participate in, collaborate with and support several initiatives, programs and efforts across borders.

One and the same misson

The Mission for Climate Neutral and Sustainable Cities 2030 is a global movement, at the local level. Hundreds - and probably thousands - of cities across the globe have realized not only that they are causing many of the pressures on the planet that we need to address, but that they also have great potential to change what happens within their geographical area. So no matter what national governments do, cities can take the lead and make changes at home. By cities working on these major societal challenges and learning from each other, the transition will be faster for the cities that follow.

So, Borlänge in Sweden, Valencia in Spain, Odessa in Ukraine and Bogota in Colombia are on the same journey, the local transition journey. And Viable Cities, as well as the EU, the Covenant of Mayors, EuroCities and many, many more organizations, are working to facilitate cities joining forces for the common mission: climate-neutral cities by 2030 with a good life for all within the boundaries of the planet.

Climate-neutral cities by 2030

Viable Cities' largest initiative is Climate Neutral Cities 2030 - a national effort for the local transition journey. Within the initiative, 23 Swedish cities and six national government agencies are currently working on the mission: to create cities that work well for the people who live in them, that are good for citizens, businesses and society's economy - and - that are good for the climate.

 

Our story

Within Viable Cities, a growing number of cities are mobilizing with a wide range of stakeholders to accelerate the local transition journey to climate-neutral and sustainable communities. Mobilization takes place at several levels simultaneously - local, regional, national and international. But how did it start?

Ten years ago, in 2013, it was already clear that the driving force in cities is crucial if we are to meet the climate crisis and achieve the Agenda 2030 goals. Within KTH's Energy Platform, then led by Olga Kordas, the idea of starting a program for smart and sustainable cities in Sweden was born. In the following years, she explored, in various constellations of actors from academia, business and civil society, what an initiative on smart and sustainable cities with a focus on energy and climate change could look like. A framework for the work was gradually created and in 2017 the seventeenth Swedish strategic innovation program - Viable Cities - was finally launched, with former finance minister Allan Larsson as chairman, and with funding from the Swedish Energy Agency, Formas and Vinnova.

The mission was formulated: climate-neutral cities by 2030 with a good life for all within the boundaries of the planet. In short, this means fixing the climate crisis. But that is not enough, we also need to ensure that people on Earth can live a good life.

Right from the start, the European Commission fueled our work. 'It is not you who should come to us and ask how to do it. We will come to you and see how you do it," said Kurt Vandenberghe, now head of the European Commission's Directorate-General for Climate Action, at a meeting in Brussels in April 2018. The mission-driven work took off in 2018 with the Climate Neutral Cities 2030 initiative, initially with nine Swedish municipalities and then in 2021 with 23 municipalities, all with very high ambitions in the climate and sustainability transition.

Milestones

2013
From idea to cascading climate transition

Ten years ago, it was already clear that the driving force in cities is crucial for meeting the climate crisis and achieving the Agenda 2030 goals. Within the Energy Platform at the Royal Institute of Technology, then led by Olga Kordas, the idea of starting a program for smart and sustainable cities in Sweden was born. Today, in 2023, a growing number of cities within Viable Cities are mobilizing together with a wide range of stakeholders to accelerate the local transition journey to climate-neutral and sustainable communities.

Mobilization takes place at several levels simultaneously - local, regional, national, EU and global. In a series of texts, we offer a palette of experiences and wisdom, our own and others', to inspire action in all cities, municipalities and communities.

Read our blog post on how it started and what has happened over the years!

EVCD 2018
European Viable Cities Day 2018

On December 11, 2018 - in connection with Nobel Day - Viable Cities arranged the first European Viable Cities Day in collaboration with the European Commission's representation in Sweden. The theme was Research and innovation for Carbon Neutral Cities.

Roundtable discussions were held with Jean-Eric Pacquet and Antonio Vicente, European Commission, and the program included Darja Isaksson, Director General of Vinnova, and representatives of four of Viable Cities' member cities that are at the forefront of innovation and climate change: Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö and Umeå. Viable Cities' new call with a view to the mission Climate Neutral Cities 2030 was discussed and it was also noted that it could serve as inspiration for the EU's then upcoming EU program for research and innovation, Horizon Europe.

Transition Lab Forum 1
Transition Lab Forum 1

Since mid-2019, Viable Cities' strategic projects have been brought together in an overarching effort, the Transition Lab. A central purpose is to build a common direction for all actions and activities within the program together with our partners.

At the Transition Lab Forum, we collect and disseminate experiences, knowledge and methods that can contribute to the goal of climate-neutral cities by 2030 with a good life for all within the boundaries of the planet.

The very first - Transition Lab Forum 1 - was held in October 2019, at Vår gård outside Stockholm.

Read more about the format.

Transition Lab Forum 2
Transition Lab Forum 2

Forum 2 was held at Campus KTH in December 2019. The Climate Neutral Cities 2030 initiative was then in its infancy.

Participants included Dan Hill, design strategist at Vinnova and Viable Cities' former chairman Allan Larsson.

The nine cities presented their climate transition work and their test beds.
The workshop focused on system demonstrators for climate neutral cities.

Read more about Wave 1 cities.

EVCD 2019
European Viable Cities Day 2019

On 11 December 2019, on the occasion of Nobel Day, and on the same day that European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen presented the European Green Deal, Viable Cities and the European Commission organized the European Viable Cities Day for the second year in a row. The focus was on climate engagement, leadership and impact.
Participants included Laurent Fabius, President of the 2015 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris; Jan Eliasson, former Deputy Secretary-General of the UN; and Eva Svedling, State Secretary to the Minister for the Environment and Climate and Deputy Prime Minister Isabella Lövin. We explored how Swedish cities and citizens can take the lead in this new challenging development and how Viable Cities can support research and innovation for this purpose.

Champions 2019
The event also featured the Viable Cities Champions - an annual award that celebrates change leaders who contribute to the success of our program. 2019 was the year:

  • Gunnar Björkman, City of Stockholm
  • Ida Boström, Gothenburg region
  • Jonas Kamleh, City of Malmö
  • Anna Ledin, City of Gothenburg
  • Johan Gammelgård, Umeå

Watch Jan Eliasson's keynote afterwards!

Signature of intent wave 1
Memorandum of Understanding signed by nine cities

On April 23, 2020, a major step towards Climate City Contract 2030 was taken when the political leadership of eight Swedish cities - Enköping, Gothenburg, Lund, Malmö, Stockholm, Umeå, Uppsala and Växjö - signed a declaration of intent for a major step forward in the climate transition. As part of the Viable Cities strategic innovation program, they will inspire and inspire other cities, in Sweden and around the world, so that as many as possible reach climate neutrality by 2030.

The cities and their partners committed to accelerate and develop systems and processes within Viable Cities to achieve greater economic, social and environmental sustainability in line with the SDGs. The eight cities signed a declaration of intent yesterday, which is an important step in the process of formulating a Climate City Contract for cities. In short, it is about changing the way we finance climate change to make it happen faster.

Katrin Stjernfeldt Jammeh, a municipal councillor in Malmö, sees several advantages to being on the train.

- 'We have high ambitions, and if you want to be at the forefront, you can't repeat what others have done, but you can take advantage of it and refine it. We in the municipalities have a great responsibility and we need to be able to try new things, the power we get in this network is incredibly important," she says.

Transition Lab Forum 3
Transition Lab Forum 3

- It always seems to be impossible until it is done, Maria Vassilakou, EU mission board on climate neutral cities, quoted Nelson Mandela when she visited Transition Lab Forum 3 in September 2020. She was one of many speakers who during two days gave power and inspiration for continued work on the mission: Climate neutral cities 2030 with a good life for all within the planetary boundaries.

The third Transition Lab Forum - with the theme of citizen engagement and local Climate City Contract - was held digitally and organized together with Umeå Municipality, one of the cities in the Climate Neutral Cities 2030 initiative.

Watch the broadcasts from day one and day two of the forum.

Transition Lab Forum 4
Transition Lab Forum 4

What happens in the city during a never-ending downpour? The virtual study visit to Gothenburg's digital twin offered dramatic images, but above all showed the possibilities of using the tool for sustainable urban development. Transition Lab Forum 4, hosted by the City of Gothenburg, was about how digital tools can provide a shift in the climate transition.

Anna Ledin, Director of Environment for the City of Gothenburg, gave an insight into how the city is working on climate change.

- There are, of course, challenges with the climate transition, but the pace can be increased by using the possibilities of digitalization and visualizing the goal," she said.

Joakim Reiter, Vodafone and EU Mission board on climate neutral cities, spoke about the vast amount of unused data that could be used to accelerate the climate transition.

Ulrika K Jansson from Enköping Municipality spoke about City as a Platform, a Viable Cities project that brings together some 20 municipalities with the aim of creating a digital infrastructure to enable solutions that work in many municipalities.

We also got an insight into the Belgian city of Leuven's efforts to achieve climate neutrality. The city was named EU Capital of Innovation 2020 for its successful efforts.

The City of Gothenburg summarized the insights from Transition Lab Forum 4 in three points:

  • Ensure that municipalities make the best use of all available data
  • Dare to collaborate, test and share solutions with others
  • Involve employees, let them get a common understanding of the situation and let's change together.

Viable Cities Chairman Allan Larsson closed the conference:

- Climate change is not a burden, but an asset, which will improve opportunities for a better future.

Watch the broadcast of the Transition Lab Forum Live here.

EVCD 2020
European Viable Cities Day 2020

December 11, 2020 was a big day for the urban climate transition. The first climate contracts in Europe were signed by the political leadership of nine Swedish cities, by the Directors-General of four government agencies and by Viable Cities.

- Swedish cities are now taking the lead in Europe and, with Climate City Contract 2030, showing the way for the transition that all cities must make. Climate City Contract 2030 is the beginning of a long-term cooperation between nine municipalities, Swedish government agencies and - soon also - the EU," said Allan Larsson, Chairman of the Board of Viable Cities.

Transition Lab Forum 5
Transition Lab Forum 5

New ways of collaborating, thinking and investing were widely discussed during the Viable Cities Transition Lab Forum 5 on March 24. The theme of the conference - investment plans for climate-neutral cities - was explored from different perspectives with representatives from finance, academia, government agencies and, of course, from the host cities of Lund and Malmö.

Jonas Kamleh, environmental strategist from the City of Malmö, talked about how they are mobilizing business and other actors to accelerate the pace of Malmö's climate transition. Jon Andersson, Head of Sustainability at Lund Municipality, led a virtual study visit to Lund together with actor Johan Wester. We were taken on a journey from ESS to Lund Central Station and on the way we stopped in Lund's new district Brunnshög, which with ambitious climate and sustainability goals will help catalyze the transition in Lund.

Watch the broadcast of the Transition Lab Forum Live here.

Transition Lab Forum 6
Transition Lab Forum 6

Most of the greenhouse gas emissions in cities come from transportation, of people and goods. Viable Cities and Drive Sweden are joining forces to accelerate the transition to climate neutral mobility in our cities, we call the initiative Climate Smart Mobility 2030. Our first joint event, Transition Lab Forum 6 on June 4, 2021, offered international perspectives, panel discussions and inspiring examples.

Read more about the collaboration between Viable Cities and Drive Sweden.

Transition Lab Forum 7
Transition Lab Forum 7

On 28 October 2021, the highest political leadership of all cities gathered for the launch of Phase 2 of the Climate Neutral Cities 2030 initiative. 23 Swedish municipalities are now working with five government agencies to accelerate the transition to climate neutral and sustainable cities. Together, the municipalities have 40% of Sweden's population.

The October 28 event was broadcast live from Posthuset in Stockholm and can be viewed below.

EVCD 2021
European Viable Cities Day 2021

Countries around the world struggle to agree on measures to reduce climate impact. On December 8, 2021, on European Viable Cities Day, 23 Swedish cities showed that they are leading the way together and working concretely towards the goal of climate neutral and sustainable cities by 2030.

- Of course, choices at the national level are extremely important, but cities have great potential to drive climate change in practice - especially when we work together as we do here," says Olga Kordas, Viable Cities Program Manager.

During the European Viable Cities Day, the joint work on Climate City Contract 2030 was manifested in a ceremony with the political leadership of 23 Swedish municipalities, directors general from five government agencies and the Viable Cities management. Nine of the municipalities signed the contract for the second time.

- We are in a hurry to reach the goal of keeping the global temperature increase below 1.5 degrees. It feels hopeful that today we have signed an even more ambitious Climate City Contract than last year, and that many more of us are working together," said Cecilia Schelin Seidegård, Chair of Viable Cities.

Transition Lab Forum 8
Transition Lab Forum 8

During Transition Lab Forum 8, we shared experiences from Skellefteå as part of the transition in northern Sweden, and we explored some key issues in the transition process and Climate City Contract 2030 - multi-level governance, sustainable construction, business strategies for sustainability and citizen engagement. The power of the transition in the north is a golden opportunity to use to accelerate the climate transition throughout Sweden and the world.

Peter Larsson, government coordinator for Northern Sweden; Karin Degerfeldt, Skellefteå municipality; Anders Thor, Northvolt and Fransesca Quartey, Västerbottensteatern were some of the participants. Skellefteå byautvecklingråd, Bolinden/Rönnskär and Polarbröd were present as well as representatives from municipalities, regions and government agencies.

Watch the broadcast of the Transition Lab forum Live here.

Transition Lab Forum 9
Transition Lab Forum 9

Transition Lab Forum 9 brought together a number of key actors working in different ways on the issue of climate-smart mobility. This included mobile hubs and shared mobility; quite simply: How do we manage our everyday trips without our own car? We also got an insight into the host city of Helsingborg's work on the climate transition. The event was organized by Viable Cities together with Drive Sweden and the City of Helsingborg during H22 in Helsingborg.

Watch the broadcast of the Transition Lab forum Live here.

Transition Lab Forum 10
Transition Lab Forum 10

How do we ensure a climate-smart, sustainable energy supply in an increasingly electrified world? A lot is happening in the energy sector right now that has major consequences for cities' efforts to become climate neutral in an uncertain world. Coordinated and bold investments need to be made and climate investment plans are becoming increasingly important. Energy saving, efficient electrification and faster introduction of renewable energy are some of the topics we will explore at Transition Lab Forum 10 in Uppsala on October 13. The European PED program, Positive Energy Districts and Neighbourhoods for Sustainable Urban Development, is led by Viable Cities and involves several cities in Sweden. We will hear about the work to create an energy positive district in Uppsala, and how we can achieve a fair and accelerated energy transition.

Watch the broadcast of the Transition Lab forum Live here.

EVCD 2022
European Viable Cities Day 2022

European Viable Cities Day on 8 December - organized by the European Commission's Representation in Sweden and Viable Cities - is a bridge between all the work going on in Sweden and the EU to accelerate the transition to climate-neutral and sustainable cities. The climate crisis places urgent demands on us to act now. During European Viable Cities Day, the joint work with Climate City Contract 2030 is manifested in a ceremony with the political leadership of 23 Swedish cities, directors general from six government agencies and the Viable Cities management. Everyone is working together to achieve the mission of Climate Neutral Cities 2030 with a good life for all within the limits of the planet.

- "This year, we have really created momentum in cities' climate transitions across Europe with 112 cities now mobilizing to accelerate the pace, including almost all capital cities," says Olga Kordas, Viable Cities Programme Manager. "At the national level, I am extremely happy that we now also have the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency on board," she adds.

Transition Lab Forum 11
Transition Lab Forum 11

At Tranistion Lab Forum 11, we will focus on how we can use our resources in an efficient and sustainable way, such as how reuse can be increased in new construction and renovation. We touch on topics such as innovation procurement and land allocation competitions, how they can be used to make the built environment more climate-smart. How can sustainability and climate issues be prioritized and made visible in comprehensive plans, planning programs and detailed planning processes? Learn about good examples of collaboration between municipalities and business and how the built environment as a whole can contribute to climate neutrality.

Watch the broadcast of the Transition Lab forum Live here.

Transition Lab Forum 12
Transition Lab Forum 12

At Transition Lab Forum 12, we take a deep dive into the future of mobility as a key issue for the transition to climate-neutral and sustainable cities by 2030. What methods and approaches exist for how actors can lead and work together to promote climate-smart mobility to accelerate the transition to climate-neutral cities? How can we develop collaborations between public organisations, business, academia and civil society that create new mobility solutions? How to ensure that the transition to climate-smart mobility is fair and inclusive and contributes to the development of attractive living environments?

Watch the broadcast of the Transition Lab forum Live here.

Transition Lab Forum 13
Transition Lab Forum 13

During Transition Lab Forum 13 in Kristianstad, we explored how climate adaptation and climate change can be integrated into the development of a sustainable food system, which is more resilient, with increased competitiveness and which contributes to a good life for all within the boundaries of the planet. What is being done today, and how can we further accelerate the transition to climate-neutral cities while adapting society to a changing climate and creating competitiveness and a good life for all?

Watch the broadcast of the Transition Lab forum Live here.

EVCD 2023
European Viable Cities Day 2023

With seven years left to achieve the mission of climate-neutral cities by 2030, radical implementation is required. In 23 Swedish pioneering cities, many initiatives are currently underway that contribute to the transition in various ways. Local businesses are mobilizing together with municipalities, new ways to govern and lead the transition are being developed, solutions that drastically reduce emissions are being disseminated and climate ideas from citizens are becoming reality. European Viable Cities Day, on December 8, will celebrate successes to date and sharpen future climate action.

Watch the live broadcast of the European Viable Cities Day 2023 afterwards and read more about the signing of Climate City Contract 2030.

A strategic innovation program

Viable Cities is a strategic innovation program supported by the Swedish Energy Agency, Vinnova and Formas. The program's timeframe is 2017-2030.

Viable Cities is a network organization and the program office is staffed by KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Lund University, RISE Research Institute of Sweden, and SEI Stockholm Environment Institute. KTH is the host organization for and coordinates Viable Cities.

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Viable Cities is a strategic innovation program with the mission Climate neutral cities 2030 with a good life for all within the planetary boundaries. The program is funded by the Swedish Energy Agency, Vinnova and Formas and is coordinated by KTH.

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