INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF URBAN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT 2021, VOL. 13, NO. 2, 159–173 https://doi.org/10.1080/19463138.2020.1855432 ARTICLE a b Ståle Holgersen and Anna Hult a b Researcher at Department of Social and Economic Geography, Ekonomikum, Uppsala; FORMAS, a Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development ABSTRACT ARTICLE HISTORY Received 14 October 2019 When cities in the global north are considered environmental sustainable, this largely Accepted 21 November 2020 depends on how one measures emissions and understands space. Production-based and consumption-based approaches are two different ways of measuring emissions, KEYWORDS but they are not simply measuring techniques: they relate also to different interests, Sustainability; urban politics; they hide and reveal power relations, and they come with very different spatial Malmö; ecological footprints; implications. In this paper, we examine the Swedish city of Malmö, and the city place branding; green fix; district of Western Harbour in particular, which is often considered an environmental climate change; urban sustainable development; ‘role model’. We argue that this reputation depends precisely upon how we under- production-based and stand space and measure emissions. We argue that so-called sustainable cities and consumption-based city districts in the global north can only be considered environmental role models if approaches to measuring one chose to ignore the fact that they completely depend upon emissions being emissions; ecological emitted elsewhere, and ignore any relation between affluence and emissions. modernisation 1. Introduction become the environmental role models they often present themselves as, depends on how one mea- As problems following from global warming and cli- sures emissions. To measure only the emissions pro- mate change are escalating, much focus in urban duced in one specific territorial area is called a studies has been directed towards how cities can production-based perspective. However, as cities in contribute in ‘solving’ the problems. This is reasonable the global north are completely dependent upon as a majority of the global population lives in cities industrial production elsewhere, we argue in this and this is where many economic and social activities paper that we also need to include a consumption- are located. But how, and to which degree, cities are based perspective. In such calculations, one calculates part of the solutions is a complex matter. It depends the emissions ‘caused’ by the commodity as belong- to a large degree, of course, on the politics that are ing to the country/region/city where it is consumed, conducted in cities, but also – which is the main focus not where it is produced. in this paper – how we understand space, which is We argue that both ways of measuring emissions linked to how we measure emissions. should be conducted in order to grasp the broader Concerning how to understand space, there is a picture. However, it is not a coincident that cities in tendency to focus on the spatial scale that favours one the global north tend to use production-based num- own interest, and regarding urban policy in the global bers. As this normally shows decreasing emissions, north this means focusing on emissions from the one can legitimise current power relations, and also particular territorial area of one’s own city or neigh- make the richest people in our cities appear to be the bourhood. As cities have transformed from industrial ‘most environmentally friendly’. We call this selective fordist cities to post-industrial neoliberal cities, the view on how to measure emissions in order to serve emissions coming from within the city borders have their own interests, for spatial myopia. often decreased. To what degree these cities have CONTACT Ståle Holgersen firstname.lastname@example.org Researcher at Department of Social and Economic Geography, Ekonomikum, Uppsala © 2020 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (http://creativecommons. org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/), which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way. 160 S. HOLGERSEN AND A. HULT Figure 1. Image of Swedish GHG emissions based on a production perspective and a consumption perspective (Hult and Larsson, 2016). Figure 2. Image of what is included in the production perspective and the consumption perspective of emissions (Hult and Larsson, 2016) Consumption-based numbers paint a very differ - was built from 2001 and onwards, primarily for ent – almost opposite – picture. In this paper, we will the affluent. address consumption perspectives on greenhouse We will show how Malmö’s reputation as a green gases (from now: GHG) calculations and ecological and sustainable city depends precisely upon how footprints as ways of pushing counter-hegemonic we understand space and measure emissions. perspectives and working towards more just socio- When choosing to understand emissions – and, environmental relations in planning practice. indirectly, space – in ways that make them appear In order to do so, we will examine the Swedish more sustainable, this also includes, strategically, city of Malmö, a city that has managed to gain a ignoring global processes. This is what we call spa- reputation as one of the worlds ‘greenest’ cities. tial myopia. The neighbourhood of Western Harbour is the This paper is based on research that stretches over prime showcase for sustainability in Malmö, and a decade. Anna Hult has analysed the international INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF URBAN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT 161 circulation and promotion of Swedish sustainable an ambition to reduce emissions of GHGs by 40% by urbanism (see e.g. Hult 2013; 2015; Hult and 2030. Others argue this is not enough: Kevin Anderson Larsson 2015). This work is based on semi-structured (2012) argues the already industrialised countries interviews with planners in Sweden and in China as must by 2030 probably reduce emissions by 90%, if well as site visits and analysis of planning documents we want to have a reasonable chance of reaching the of best-practice sustainable districts in Sweden as widely acknowledged 2°C target and also give space well as those Swedish plans of exported to Chinese for Southern development. eco-cities. Ståle Holgersen has written extensively on If one considers how, why, by whom and where the urban transformation of Malmö (see e.g. GHG emissions and other environmental damage are Holgersen 2014a; 2017; Holgersen and Malm 2015). produced, and where and by whom the risks of flood - The work is based on semi-structured interviews with ing, droughts, storms or exhaustions of natural e.g. planners, developers, architects, politicians in resources may be felt, a set of processes, actors and Malmö, archive work and document analysis on possibilities come to mind. It is important to note that urban planning and policy documents, as well as global GHG emissions do not arise from some uniform numerous relevant interviews outside Malmö, with and invisible source, but rather is the product of the Swedish state officials, policy makers, managers, ways in which energy is used in our homes and cars developers, and others. The analysis in this paper and to make the things we consume and the goods builds on a combination of these two research tracks. we use, and the product of our management of the This article proceeds in four sections. In section two land and forests. It is these processes, taking place in a we examine the urban political ecological frame- highly uneven manner across different national con- work, the context we are situated in and ways of texts, that create both the existing atmospheric con- measuring emissions. In section three we discuss ditions and the so-called ‘common, but differentiated, the case study of Malmö, and in section four we responsibilities’ for acting on global warming analyse how ways of measuring emissions have (Bulkeley 2013). Global warming should be consid- direct impact on Malmö. We end the paper with ered a global issue, not in the sense that it occurs in concluding reflections on spatial myopia; on how the same way across the world, but rather as an issue so-called environmental friendliness depends on that has very different histories and geographies, how we choose to understand space. varying across time and space, and with differing implications for economies and societies. It is from this perspective of global warming, as shaped by 2. Urban ecological footprints diverse processes that vary not only between different The human influence on the environmental condi- nation states but also within and across national tions of the planet is clear. Reports from the boundaries, that the city as both a territorial and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) relational space comes into view. show that emissions of GHGs increased by 70% over the period 1970–2004 and today emissions caused by 2.1. Ecological modernisation as dominant human activity are the highest in history (Bulkeley discourse 2013; IPCC 2014). Assessments of climate change by the IPCC draw on the work of hundreds of researchers The current dominant and mainstream discourse con- from all over the world that state that most probably cerning urban sustainability is ecological modernisa- global temperatures will continue to rise for decades tion. This is a field within environmental studies that to come, largely due to GHGs produced by human has gained support amongst both academics and deci- activities. Moreover, there have already been observa- sion makers within recent decades (e.g. Spaargaren et ble effects on the environment due to global warm- al. 2000; Mol et al. 2009). It is viewed as an analytical ing; glaciers have shrunk, ice on rivers and lakes is approach, a theory, a policy strategy and an environ- breaking up earlier than before and plant and animal mental and political discourse (Hajer 1995; Lidskog and ranges have shifted (NASA 2016). Elander 2012). The theory of ecological modernisation How to measure emissions, how much we need to is based on a belief in decoupling of material and reduce, and not least how to do this, however, are far economic flows and asserts that economic growth is more disputed. The European Commission (2010) has possible without unsustainable exploitation of natural 162 S. HOLGERSEN AND A. HULT resources (Lidskog and Elander 2012). Thus, it assumes footprint’ and ‘fair share of environmental space’ that it is possible to have increased economic growth represent attempts to calculate consumption from and decreasing carbon dioxide emissions, and that a more environmentally just perspective. environmental improvement can take place in tandem Planning researcher Parr (2009) argues that the with economic growth is a key fundamental assump- meteoric rise of the concept of sustainable develop- tion. At the foundation of the theory is the thought that ment is highly likely due to the fact that it can be we do not need a systemic shift in society to solve hijacked for other means. She means that what environmental problems. In this sense, ecological mod- began as a grassroots movement to promote respon- ernisation is closely related to the concepts of ‘green sible development has now become a bullet point in industrialism’ and ‘sustainable growth’. The role of corporate eco-branding strategies. In addition, she science and technology will be strengthened in solving states that the more popular sustainable develop- and preventing environmental problems and market ment becomes the more commodified it becomes dynamics will be utilised to launch environmental (ibid). reforms. Through making industrialism and technology As a critique of the ecological modernisation green, compound economic growth can continue and approach, While et al. (2004) have in a comparative the comfortable modern lifestyles of consumption can study of the post-industrial transformations of be maintained. Manchester and Leeds proposed the concept of sus- It is easy to understand the popularity of ecological tainability fix (see also Temenos and Mccann 2012; modernisation in policymaking and environmental pol- Rosol et al. 2017). This draws upon Harvey´s notion itics; it has a very practical character with the focus on of spatial fix , which is a way to conceptualise how problem solving and offers an apparent solution that capital relocates in space in order to solve economic makes it possible to have increasing economic growth difficulties (Harvey 2001, see also Jessop 2006). The and environmental concern at the same time. ‘fix’ has here a dual significant: both as a quick fix – Moreover, ecological modernisation does not require when, e.g. a drug addict satisfies his burning desire for any dramatic changes within current economic markets drugs – and as something being fixed physically: fix - and institutions in society. Thus, politicians do not need ing a post in a hole or tying something to a particular to suggest any major changes to people’s everyday place. lives. Politically, therefore, it does not challenge existing While et al. (2004) provides a fruitful framework for power relations. Both Swyngedouw (2010) and Lidskog how to understand urban sustainable development. and Elander (2012) opens the question as to whether But, the word sustainability implies that this fix actu- sustainability has become a key strategy in sustaining ally contains some component of real sustainable what is known to be unsustainable. Ecological moder- development – however defined. Which is not neces- nisation has become a dominant discourse of sustain- sarily the case for many cities branding themselves as ability that in many ways is keeping needed socio- sustainable. When theorising Malmö’s transformation, environmental change from happening and problema- Holgersen and Malm (2015) have therefore suggested tically shadows important issues, such as inequality and the concept of green fix . This is ‘an attempt to over- uneven geographies. come a crisis of capital accumulation in a particular As the criticism of sustainability dominated by locale’ (Holgersen and Malm 2015, p. 227), but does ecological modernisation and corporate interest not imply anything more that polices and business has grown, more radical concepts of the social strategies are framed as ‘green’ – which can be any- production of (urban) nature provide contesting thing from actual environmental improvements to views of urban-nature relationships (Swyngedouw pure greenwashing. 1997; Keil 2003; Agyeman 2013). Within this body The green fix is constituted in an eco-modernist of literature, often associated with environmental framework. But where eco-modernisation proper justice and political ecology, there is both a strong argues that sustainability and growth are compatible, critical tradition and also an emphasis on pushing the green fix takes this one step further, with a slightly counter-hegemonic perspectives. For example, different twist: now sustainability is a means to some of this work has found expression in the growth. ‘Green’ urban developments, as we will see influential and widely practised ecological footprint in the case of Malmö, are now mobilised also as analysis (Keil 2003). The concepts of ‘ecological strategies for economic growth. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF URBAN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT 163 2.2. Cities and urban sustainability in China; Caprotti 2014a); ‘urban environmentalism’ (in Malmö; Jamison 2008); ‘ecological gentrification’ Cities and urban areas have increasingly been under- (in Seattle; Dooling 2009); theoretical approaches to stood both as part of the problem with climate ‘neoliberal natures’ (see, e.g. Bakker 2010) and various change, but lately increasingly also as part of the discussions on ‘nature, metabolism and cities’ (see, e. solution (see Rosol et al. 2017). Geographer Harriet g. Heynen et al. 2006, for an excellent overview, see Bulkeley writes that (2013, p. 13): ‘Utopian visions of also Rosol et al. 2017). social and technical responses to global warming are What is less analysed in this literature, and what we often created through different imaginings of the examine in this paper, is how these so-called best- future city’. case examples often are relying on a particular view of In the broad literature that has emerged on sus- space and – related – how we measure emissions. tainable urban planning, much of the focus is on what Before we do this through investigating one city that constitutes successful practice (see, for example, often finds itself on lists of best-cases, the Swedish city Beatley 2000; Birch and Wachter 2008; Wheeler and of Malmö, we briefly need to outline the two different Beatley 2014; Fitzgerald 2010; Slavin 2011). Much of ways of measuring emissions. this research within urban sustainability is performed through case studies (Krueger and Gibbs 2007a). In this field of literature, researchers are seeking to show, 2.3. Sweden: eco-modernisation and two ways through case studies, how sustainability plays out in to measure GHG emissions different places and under different policies. In this approach, case studies offer a ‘pick and mix’ set of Research has recognised the central position of eco- policies – often in terms of, e.g. bicycle lanes, high- logical modernisation within Swedish environmental density zoning, transport-orientated development, policy and politics (Lidskog and Elander 2012; urban green space preservation – that are seen as Holgersen and Malm 2015). Sweden has been praised ‘best-practices’ and could be adapted to different for its sustainability efforts and decreasing GHG emis- local circumstances. Several volumes have been writ- sions, but carbon accounting depends on the ways in ten to present such practical examples of so-called which carbon can be measured, quantified and statis- sustainable urban planning (e.g. Beatly and Manning tically aggregated. When nations and urban districts 1997; Pierce and Dale 1999; Beatly 2000; Portney in the global north, like Sweden and Malmö, publicise 2003). Within this strand of literature, case studies of their low GHG emissions, these emissions are often urban sustainability range between various scales, based on a production perspective including only pointing out nation states, regions, whole cities or emissions occurring within their geographical bound- city-districts as best practice. Some cities are more ary (Naturvårdsverket 2017a, 2017b). When including frequently mentioned than others, for example, a consumption-based approach, the numbers look Portland in the US, Freiburg in Germany and Malmö different. in Sweden (Krueger and Gibbs 2007a). Krueger and Sweden is often cited as a sustainability success Gibbs (2007a) point out that whole nations have story with low emissions. And when progress is con- sometimes been identified as best practice examples, sidered to be equivalent to growth in gross domestic for example, the Netherlands and Sweden (or the product (GDP) and environmental concern is equiva- whole of Scandinavia). In addition, urban scholars lent to calculations of territorial GHG emissions, Fitzgerald and Lenhart (2016) point out that three of Sweden is able to show great data. the most celebrated European eco-districts are At the same time the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Hammarby Sjöstad in Stockholm, Western Harbour has pointed out that the ecological footprint of the in Malmö and Vauban in Freiburg. average Swede in 2015 was over six global hectares There is also a growing body of literature critically (gha) per person, while the global space available is discussing urban sustainability in terms of ‘green- only 1.7 gha. Moreover, the Swedish footprint per washing’ of the waterfront (in Port Adelaide, South capita has been growing and Sweden has been Australia; Szili and Rofe 2007); the ‘death and revival of placed amongst the 10 worst countries on the green planning’ (in Australia and Canada; Bührs 2000); WWF’s global ranking (WWF 2014). WWF (2016, p. 1) the proliferating experiments in ‘eco-cities’ (not least states: ‘Sweden’s ecological footprint needs thus to 164 S. HOLGERSEN AND A. HULT reduce considerably to approach a sustainable and where emissions only are calculated from a produc- fair level’. tion perspective. Depending on the questions asked, the perspec- The consumption perspective is needed as it takes tives highlighted and the way in which numbers are account of environmental justice and global respon- calculated, there may be different ideas of whether or sibility while challenging politics and aspirations for not Sweden can be considered a role model in high-consumerist lifestyles. It emphasises the crucial sustainability. areas of housing, transportation, food, and public In contemporary Swedish environmental political spending. debate and the official marketing of Sweden as sus- tainable, the production perspective is still dominant. 3. Malmö This perspective fits very well with the ecological modernisation discourse and is also used to market Malmö’s transformation into a post-industrial city, certain urban districts as ecological, low-carbon dis- focusing on tourism, culture, congresses, increased tricts (e.g. Western Harbour in Malmö and Hammarby office space, and, not least, attracting wealthy tax Sjöstad in Stockholm). In contrast, the consumption payers resembles, generally speaking, the history of perspective reveals that how people live in these many western cities. The general transformation areas entails high GHG emissions. These areas’ resi- from industrial policies standing on a Fordist- dents often have relatively high incomes and can Keyneisan political economy to a post-industrial afford to fly around the globe and consume substan- urban policy standing on a post-Fordist/neoliberal tially. The production perspective enhances the view foundation is so visible in Malmö it is tempting to that we can draw geographical boundaries around call it a cliché (for international discussions, see nations or urban districts and, based on the emissions Harvey 1989; Peck and Tickell 2002). There are two produced within these boundaries, judge whether aspects with the Malmö case that need mentioning. specific countries or districts are sustainable. One is that the transformation happened somewhat If instead a consumption perspective is applied later than many other similar cities, and the other is then all emissions attributable to the inhabitants’ con- that the transformation, when it came, was very sumption patterns, no matter where they occur, are radical (Dannestam 2009; Holgersen 2014a, 2014b). included, e.g. emissions from imported goods and air A few building projects, often also highlighted in travel. This provides new outlooks on sustainability. the municipal’s own narrative, can exemplify the From this perspective, Swedish emissions have city’s transformation: the Malmö University was increased rather than decreased in the last decades. established in 1998, The Öresund Bridge to Swedish researchers and the Swedish Environmental Copenhagen opened in 2000, the housing exhibition Protection Agency propose that the production per- Bo01 was located in Western Harbour in 2001, as well spective should be complemented with a consump- as new stadiums, a huge shopping mall, Emporia, tion perspective to describe more fairly who is opened in 2012, and they city also hosted several responsible for what emissions (Naturvårdsverket ‘events’, from an international sailing race to the 2017a). Eurovision Song Contest 2013. In 2015, opened Greenhouse gas emissions, based on a consump- Malmö Live opened – a combined hotel, conference tion perspective, can be calculated from the emissions and concert hall. As the concert hall cost the munici- occurring within a territory, subtracting the part pality 1,3 billon SEK, this is the most expansive linked to exports and adding the emissions linked to investment by the municipality ever. But the field imported goods and international transportation. of policy that the city would get most international From this perspective, Swedish consumption caused attention for is ecological sustainability (Holgersen a total of around 95 million tonnes of GHG emissions 2014a, 2017). in 2003, i.e. about 25% higher than indicated by the Malmö’s ‘golden years’ came after the Second production perspective, and the level has since World War. As it was one of Sweden’s most important increased (see Hult and Larsson 2015). industrial cities and controlled by social democrats The Swedish storyline of decoupling – and the (continuously from 1919 to 1985), it has famously business of ‘sustainable urbanism’ into which it feeds been called both Sweden’s most ‘prosperous region – is based on a deficient territorial view of space of growth’ and the ‘Mecca of the Swedish labour INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF URBAN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT 165 movement’ (Billing and Stigendal 1994; Mukhtar- brought to the front: now the prime goal for physical Landgren 2009). planning is an ‘attractive and sustainable city’ When much industrial activity declined during the (Malmö Stad 2006, p. 98). 50s and 60s, this was compensated by a growing During this process, the most important thing that public sector. But when the decline in the industrial would make the city´s reputation ‘green’ was the sector continued through the 70s and 80s also in the planning, building and branding of the housing exhi- male-dominated shipbuilding industry, the city not bition ‘Bo01 – City of Tomorrow’, located at Western only found itself in an economic and social crisis but Harbour in 2001. As Western Harbour was also the also a ‘crisis of identity’ (Dannestam 2009; Holgersen main site for shipbuilding during the golden days of 2017). The decline of workplaces contributed to eco- industrial Malmö, the exhibition became very impor- nomic concerns that were also fuelled by the fact that tant for transforming Malmö, not only economically many well-off residents moved to the richer neigh- and politically but also socially and mentally. bouring municipalities (Billing 2000, p. 19). When examining the history of the housing exhibi- After the shipbuilding closed in 1986, a car factory tion, and based on interviews with key persons in the opened in Western Harbour. But that closed in 1991, process, we see that the ‘environmental’ part was not and it coincided with closing of several industrial work- at all a part of a larger master plan for the beginning. It places and also a great financial crisis in Scandinavia. was not at all clear during the planning and construc- Between 1990 and 1994, 25% of all workplaces disap- tion process that it was ecological sustainability that peared in Malmö (Sernhede and Johansson 2006, p. 35; would become the main selling point for Western on the gradual character of these transformations, see Harbour. One municipal planner described the first Pries 2017). It was in this context that Ilmar Reepalu prospectus for the exhibition as ‘amazingly fluffy – came to power as chair of the municipal board (equiva- everything from culture, information technology and lent to mayor) in Malmö in 1994. Reepalu was a new welfare to new ways of organizing schools was kind of social democrat, as an educated architect and included. It was really far out’ (interview, municipal engineer he was different from the union-based social planner). democrats that had been governing the city for about The director of city planning argued that the exhi- 60–70 years. He immediately started a process called bition’s main object was to attract taxpayers to the ‘work of visions’. city: the environment and questions of ‘energy and other green questions, such as green space factors, green roofs and storm-water management’, on the other hand, appeared as a series of afterthoughts 3.1. The process of greening Malmö (interview, director of city planning). The fact that From the early stages of ‘work of visions’, it was the area was branded as green, according to the definitely not clear that it was ecological sustainabil- director, was partly an opportunity to demonstrate ity that would become the city’s most famous field of ideas, partly a matter of urban branding. Another policy. In the first document published as part of the city planner that we have interviewed suggested ‘work of vision’, the environment is only mentioned that ‘use of energy’ became a central component, as in relation to recreational parts (see Malmö Stad it was a simple and manageable metric that could be 1995). In later documents, the environment is applied in various projects (interview, city planner). included as one of eight visions, but clearly less ‘Green’ urban policies have in Malmö the function important than the main categories: economy, busi- of attracting capital, and practices that look environ- ness and education (Malmö Stad 1996). In the mentally friendly are promoted as features of the city. Comprehensive Plan 2000, environmental issues, The municipality does nothing to ‘hide’ that sustain- increasingly conceptualised as sustainability, have able planning and policy are a business strategy, but been given a more proper position, but still remain for the politicians and public officers the green policy much less prominent than economic affairs and – is also about saving the climate and environment. considering this is 2000 – a strong regional and Neither did developers we have interviewed have European focus (Malmö Stad 2001). In the any need to camouflage the fact that the ‘green’ Comprehensive Plan 2005 (adopted 2006), sustain- aspect is primarily a business strategy. One developer ability – ecological, environment and social – is argued that having a green profile was: 166 S. HOLGERSEN AND A. HULT “purely a business strategy. We think it will be profitable Persson nor the Municipal and Housing Minister, in the long run. It will become easier to get tenants, and Malmö Lars-Erik Lövdén, were visitors to Bo01 easier to sell blocks, and the whole city district will (Holgersen 2017). There was also a strong critique become more valuable, from a business point of view’ that the houses were not as energy-efficient as (interview, real estate developer). planned and promised. Several developers and project managers have similar The perhaps most important single aspect in arguments, one saying that it is a market-driven pro- branding Western Harbour as environmentally sus- cess, in which ‘everyone wants to appear as a corpora- tainable was that the buildings were supposed to tion which takes responsibility’ (interview, real estate use less than 105 kWh/m annually – ‘including developer), another arguing ‘it is not possible to build space heating, domestic hot water heating, com- anything today, unless one takes a clear stance on mon electricity and household electricity’ (Bagge questions of environment and energy’ (interview, 2007, p. 5). However, research from Bagge (2007), real estate developer). And a third developer argued Nilsson (2003) and Nilsson and Elmroth (2005) has his company never builds anything that does not shown that energy use was much higher than this qualify for Green Building certification: ‘if you don’t unambitious target. In the municipality’s own half- have it, you are not in, you lose out in business’ (inter- way evaluation of the Western Harbour, it is also view, real estate developer). acknowledged that neither Bo01, nor Flaggskeppet One very important factor behind the greening of (which was its sequel, often called Bo02) delivered Malmö was the Local Investments Money (LIP), a pro- the promised results (Malmö Stad 2011a). This is a gramme for promoting environmentally sustainable problem for the municipality of Malmö, even if we projects, and which provided much needed financial use production-based numbers, and it comes as no support to Bo01 (Dannestam 2009). In dialogue with surprise that this has been under-communicated this state program evolved some visions of creating – by the municipality. according to the director of city planning – ‘the Two things happened, however, that would world’s first sustainable city’ (interview, director of change the interpretation of the area. One was that city planning). This was a ‘little vaguely expressed in the area was used as a leisure activity for the whole the beginning, but it was filled with content step by city. The other was that Malmö did start to receive step’ (ibid.). international attention. Malmö’s focus on environmental sustainability is Some ten years after the exhibition, Malmö had also related to a broader political orientation in gained a reputation as one of the ‘green’ cites, at Sweden, where, for example, the then Prime Minister least in terms of being one of the cities on the lists Göran Persson proposed the ‘Green People´s Home’ in of ‘greenest cities’ and winners of awards. Just to take 1996: an eco-modernist re-cast of the post-war a few examples between 2009 and 2013. Malmö was ‘People’s Home’. According to Persson a push for envir- named 3rd ‘Greenest city in the world’ in 2013 by onmentally efficient technologies would ‘provide great Mother Nature Network, finalist for the European competitive advantages in these promising markets, in Green Capital in 2012 and 2013, Earth Hour Capital a happy marriage of “ecology, economy and employ- in 2011 by WWF, 3rd most environmentally friendly ment”’ (quoted in Lundqvist 2004, p. 1287). city in Europe in 2011 in a study by the Economist The housing exhibition Bo01 at Western Harbour is Intelligence Unit commissioned by Siemens, and the today being ‘sold’ by the municipality as an uncondi- first winner of the Nordic Sustainability Price in 2011 tional success. But Jansson (2006) argues that not by Idébanken. The list of prizes and awards is long, many new city districts or housing exhibitions have and cannot be described in full here, but it is also actually been as infamous as Bo01. The amount of worth adding that Malmö was the winner of the visitors at the exhibition was low, and the company Intermodes Prize (as part of Oresund Region) awarded organising the exhibition, Housing Expo, went bank- by AEBR in 2011, honoured with a stand at the Urban rupt not long after the exhibition. But the main cri- Best Practices Area at Expo 2010 in China, recipient of tique of the exhibition was that the apartments were the World Habitat Award in 2010, the World Green too expensive – designed for the rich as luxury apart- Building Council’s BEX Award, 2009 (for best master ments. This critique also extended far into the social plan, with special compliments to the Western democracy, as neither the then Prime Minister Göran Harbour), etcetera. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF URBAN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT 167 Malmö’s green fix was a response to the chal- urban planning services. Ahead of the ONG Earth lenges that politicians, planners and entrepreneurs Summit in Johannesburg, 2002, the Swedish govern- faced in the 1990s. The policy developed ad hoc, ment launched an initiative entitled The Sustainable somewhat accidentally and the process was to a City, suggesting a specific integrated planning large degree fuelled by its own success – not least approach as a conceptual framework to support sus- related to international attention and recognition. tainable urban development in low and middle- The city’s deep crisis in the early 1990s opened the income countries. In 2007, the semi-government path for the entrepreneurial/post-industrial urban Swedish Trade Council, together with large Swedish development, and the greening of the city came to private companies, developed the idea of ‘the sustain- be the component that attracted most attention in able city’ into the more marketable concept of ‘The this respect. The dialectic between public politics Symbio City’. The initial purpose of the organisation and private business strategies has constituted the called SymbioCity was to act as a marketing platform green fix: a dialectic that has worked as a strategy for for Swedish clean-tech companies. The defined pur- crisis management: ‘in which state and capital have pose of the ‘Symbio City’ concept came to serve as a stimulated each other to proceed along the green communication platform for dissemination of path to prosperity and profit’ (Holgersen and Malm Swedish environmental technology in close co-link- 2015, p. 283). age with sustainable urban development, including International recognition, we argue, has been very institutional arrangements and planning processes important for the ‘green’ to evolve in Malmö. A few (SIDA and Swedish Government 2010). The urban dis- years ago, Malmö received around 10.000–12.000 offi - tricts of Western Harbour in Malmö, together with cial visitors who wanted to see and learn from the Hammarby Sjöstad in Stockholm, were cited as central city’s work on ecological sustainability at Western flagship projects to demonstrate best practice in sus- Harbour (email communication, public officer, tainable urban development. Malmö stad). According to Malmö’s coordinator of Exactly what is being ‘sold’ or ‘exported’ is not communication and study visits, the ‘visits are part uncomplicated. Windmills and other physical com- of Malmö’s branding work, and every visitor must be modities that can contribute to a green future are seen as a future ambassador for the city’’ (quoted in obviously manufactured at lower cost in, e.g. China. Malmö Stad 2011c, p. 30). Visitors are considered So what the city of Malmö will specialise in – what the important for branding the city and increase competi- municipality argue is their competitive advantage – is tiveness. According to the CEO of Sustainable ‘systems-thinking’. According to the director of city Business Hub, a network helping ‘clean-tech’ compa- planning: ‘[w]e are good at systems. [. . .] how to inte- nies to increase their competitiveness in the export grate parts into a whole, and such things – this is what market: ‘it is very important to strengthen the brand we’re good at’ (interview, director of city planning). of Malmö, so one can attract people from the whole The municipality is actually trying to export urban world’ (interview, CEO of Sustainable Business Hub). planning and urban policy. Backed by SymbioCity, One dilemma is however that this strategy, so impor- this is the municipality’s main focus. tant for future revenues, is a direct expenditure from In this branding, governmental bodies and pri- the budget as thousands of visitors are every year vate companies have identified decoupling (of eco- guided by staff from the municipality. There have nomic growth and environmental damage) as a therefore been discussions as to whether one can selling storyline of Swedish urban sustainability, a charge visitors for the guided tour. storyline that has been deliberately linked to urban flagship districts such as Western Harbour in Malmö and Hammarby Sjöstad. In the Swedish urban sus- 3.2. The branding and selling of ecological tainability imaginary (a term meaning the ways by sustainability which society creates for each period in history its The Malmö narrative is not unique. From the early particular way of living and of viewing the world) 21st century there have been very conscious efforts identified in Hult (2013), the storyline of decoupling by Swedish government bodies and private compa- is black-boxed into a selling image and promoted nies to brand Swedish urban sustainability, in order to together with the flagship urban districts of Sweden combine export of Swedish clean-tech products and through, e.g. the platform SymbioCity. However, the 168 S. HOLGERSEN AND A. HULT premise on which this Swedish urban sustainable was sold for 1 USD in 2002 and then moved to the imaginary is built does not hold and also has proble- world’s single largest shipyard, Hyundai Heavy ship- matic effects as this imaginary circulates and pro- yard in Ulsan, South Korea, where it still operates duces real political effects in urban spaces in today. Sweden and beyond (Hult 2015; Rapoport and Hult Here we simply need to grasp the local and global 2017). level – and relations between them – simultaneously. Not being able to – or rather: not wanting to – see global and international aspects for all the local 4. Discussion and critique: space and details is forms of spatial myopia. Another example sustainability of this is found in the development of Varvstaden, another part of Western Harbour. Varvstaden is cur- “We cannot reasonably argue for high environmental rently being constructed and is being built into an quality in the neighbourhood while still insisting on liv- eco-city with 1500 apartments, offices for 500 work- ing at a level which necessarily implies polluting the air places, restaurants, schools and stores (Malmö Stad somewhere else; we need to know how space and time get defined by the quite different material processes 2011b). The project will have a certified ecological which give us our daily sustenance.” (Harvey 1996, p. profile. One ironic aspect is that the industrial pro- 233) duction that was going on at the site until very recently was manufacturing parts for trains and Climate change is a global challenge. Concerning windmills. These are things that need to be pro- especially greenhouse gas emissions, it is common duced somewhere for a transition to a sustainable knowledge that the actual impacts on the world’s future. But from the perspective of eco-city branding ecosystems might extend far beyond the site where what matter is that pollution and noise must be the emissions actually take place. Indeed, such distant removed from here. effects are emblematic of the main environmental Much wealth and prosperity that currently is accu- problems in our time. From a global perspective, it mulated by firms and individuals in Malmö in general does not matter if one locale becomes greener if the and Western Harbour in particular, rests on an inflow emissions are just relocated in space and continue of commodities from other countries. And fossil fuels with unaffected strength globally. are used in most stages in these global activities: from “There are mountains of evidence showing that pres- production of ships and commodities to the fuel that sures on the environment may be displaced from what brings them to Sweden. Such emissions are not appear, at first sight, to be a clean, green locale, towards directly visible in Malmö, and this ‘invisibility’ is pre- less visible, far-away places; trade, foreign direct invest- ment and other mechanisms of global exchange may cisely what makes the branding of Western Harbour simply re-distribute the ecological burden in space and as a green paragon possible. Making emissions ‘invi- increase its total extent.“ (Holgersen and Malm 2015, p. sible’ is only possible through a certain spatial view. 284) And how we calculate emissions comes with different The polluting activities from the industrial Malmö did spatial implications. Sweden, as a country, is especially indeed not disappear. Both everyday life and capital interesting in this regard as is aiming at exporting a accumulation in today’s Malmö are still highly depen- storyline that says that Sweden is a sustainable role dent upon much industrial production elsewhere, also model that has decoupled its economy. activities that previously did take place in the city. The city’s ecological flagship – Western Harbour – 4.1. Measuring urban sustainability: often is ironically placed where the world largest shipyards through production-based numbers once were located. Without the disappearing of the gritty mega-industry – servant of the oil economy – From a production-based perspective to calculate the ecological flagship could not have found its sui- emissions, Sweden does indeed show relatively table and attractive location by the waterfront. good numbers. Importantly, Sweden was relatively Shipbuilding never stopped, and the 138 metre tall early in formulating environmental regulations and Kockums Crane – the largest gantry crane in the world has a history of setting high political ambitions and when constructed in 1973 – was never demolished targets. Sweden, together with Finland, was first in the and did not simply disappear (Dannestam 2009). It world to establish steering environmental taxes on INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF URBAN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT 169 carbon, in 1991 (Borgnäs 2016). Another main reason stations (The Swedish Energy Agency 2015). This for having decreasing territorial CO emissions is due means that a large part of electricity production is to the integration of infrastructure systems, which is already fossil-free. Second, Sweden opted to invest partly also what SymbioCity builds around. in nuclear powered energy after the oil crisis in the However, these are not at all solely located in the 1970s and today almost 40% of electricity production flagship areas like Western Harbour but are rather the comes from nuclear power. In addition, renewable result of long-term investments throughout urban energy in the form of wind power and biogas pro- areas in Swedish cities. District heating is the most duces around 10% of the electricity (Borgnäs 2016). common source of space heating for housing and This means that Sweden has an energy system which buildings in Sweden, with 80% of all households releases very little GHG emissions, although it can also heated by this method. The first district heating sys- be debated how environmentally friendly nuclear tem in Sweden was built at the end of the 1940s and power plants and some hydroelectric dams actu- the breakthrough came at the time of the oil crisis in ally are. the 1970s. This was as the same time as the major Sweden fits well into an imaginary of urban sus- housing campaign ‘Million Programme’ was under- tainability where decoupling economic growth from way in Stockholm, in order to address housing short- CO emissions acts as the main storyline and environ- age. Those new homes were directly designed and mental concern is reduced to territorial calculations of linked to district heating systems. During the time of carbon emissions. But to promote this storyline as an Social Democrat rule in Sweden and their ‘People’s achievement to export, that in addition links the idea Homes’ policy in the 1950s and the Million of achieving decoupling to the famous best-practice Programme in the 1970s, investments were made in urban districts, for example, to the Western Harbour, extensive integration of public transport and other is not completely justifiable. It is even less justifiable infrastructure with land-use planning, an approach taking into account that the GHG emissions caused by manifested in suburbs such as Vällingby or Farsta the population of Sweden have increased rather than outside Stockholm, located near subway stations decreased in the last decades. and connected to district heating infrastructure. The high share of public transportation trips in Stockholm today owes much to the foresight of planners in over- 4.2. Consumption-based numbers turns the dimensioning the subway system during the 1940s table and 1970s (Metzger and Rader 2013). The consumption perspective on GHG emissions The Swedish forestry sector, its heavy basic industry, works as a counter-narrative in the sense that it desta- district heating, the waste incineration industry and bilises the central storyline of Swedish decoupling. As public housing together shape a complex and robust mentioned, if a consumption perspective is applied energy and heating system which is almost indepen- then all emissions attributable to the inhabitants’ con- dent of fossil fuel (Borgnäs 2016). Today, there are sumption patterns, no matter where they occur, are continuous investments in district heating and biogas included, for example, emissions from imported in Sweden. These systems suit the specific condition of goods and air travel. From this perspective, Swedish industries and infrastructure well and have been built emissions have increased rather than decreased in the over a long period of time, often with other main last decades. Thus, the perspective both destabilises objectives than purely environmental. Sweden as a nation as having achieved decreased Finally, while early environmental regulations and emissions, and highlights the paradox that those decades of infrastructure investments have contribu- well-off conscious consumers that can afford to live ted to a decrease in territorial emission levels in the in branded sustainable urban districts, such as last decades in Sweden, there are other reasons Western Harbour in Malmö or Hammarby Sjöstad in behind the relatively low fossil intensity and GHG Stockholm, are symbols of a sustainable lifestyle emissions (Borgnäs 2016). First of all, due to its specific rather than its reality. Thus, this perspective unpacks geographical conditions Sweden, together with some of the problematic relationships that shape Norway, has the largest hydroelectric potential in uneven socio-environmental relations in the name of Europe and almost half (45%) of all electricity produc- urban sustainability. tion in Sweden today comes from hydroelectric power 170 S. HOLGERSEN AND A. HULT The consumption perspective is not only another the identity of the city (see Zukin 1991; Mansvelt way of calculating GHG emissions. As a strong coun- 2005). Today, concepts of the sharing economy, col- ter-narrative and a counter-storyline, it provides a laborative consumption and the circular economy are generative narrative that stipulates new outlooks on emerging within planning practice, but little research urban sustainability and justifies the need for plan- has been done in the planning field in terms of how ning practices that address issues of less resource these concepts translate into physical planning prac- consumption within and across territorial borders, tices. Here is an important field for future research and such as decreased air travel, consumption of ecologi- practice if we strive to move towards more just socio- cally produced food and less material consumption. environmental relations in cities. A report published in 2012, though based on 2004 data, on carbon dioxide emissions in Sweden and 4.3. Class and urban space Malmö, exemplifies our argument. Consumption- based emissions in Sweden are around 90% higher When applying consumption-based numbers, we not than the ‘official’, production-based figure (SEI 2012). only see that inhabitants and companies in Malmö are In the city of Malmö, consumption-based accounting responsible for much more emissions that with pro- gives a figure that is 204% higher than the official duction-based numbers, we also see that there are emissions figure. With consumption-based figures, differences within Malmö. Malmö’s emissions are 13.4 tonnes per person per The Western Harbour was originally built to attract year – which is far above the 2 tonnes available for taxpayers, people with money, and ‘entrepreneurs’ to each of us on this planet if we want a ‘just and Malmö. And they succeeded. The average income in sustainable development at global level in accor- Western Harbour is far above the city average. In 2011, dance with the so-called two-degree target’ (SEI the average income in the city as a whole was SEK 195 2012, p. 8, see also Naturvårdsverket 2017b). Thus, 351, while in Western Harbour it was SEK 279,110. If the consumption-based figures points in the same compared to the poorer areas, like Törnrosen (SEK direction as ecological footprint measurements that 117,022), Herrgården (SEK 101 758) or Kryddgården show that the ecological footprint of the average (SEK 94,191), the geographical class dimensions in Swede in 2015 was over six global hectares (gha) per consumption become apparent. People in Western person, while the global space available is only 1.7 Harbour also have more cars than average in Malmö gha and that the Swedish footprint per capita has (Holgersen 2017). Although we cannot measure been growing. Sweden’s ecological footprint and con- exactly how much energy every single individual con- sumption habits need to be reduced considerably to sumes or where this energy comes from, it is beyond approach a sustainable and fair level (WWF 2014, any doubt that affluence correlates closely with con- 2016). sumption of both energy and raw materials. Planning practice and planning research for sus- That those living in affluent areas have generally tainability have generally focused on facilitating a higher ecological footprints than those living in more eco-friendly life for citizens in terms of their poorer areas becomes rather ironic all the time that housing, modes of transport, waste flows and use of the image of environmental friendliness also is a green space, but generally not trying to influence badge of affluence (cf. Bradley 2009, Vojnovic 2014, citizens’ consumption of other material goods. (See, p. S42). Being ‘sustainable’, or living in eco-districts is for instance, writings on urban sustainability by ‘something well-off Swedes cultivate as a class iden- Wheeler and Beatley (2014), Haas (2012) or Farr tity, further promoting a lifestyle of high total material (2008)). In relation to urban theory there are two throughput’ (Holgersen and Malm 2015, p. 285). main strands of research that deal with material Despite claims from advocates of decoupling the- flows and consumption issues in relation to urban ory and ecological modernists, economic growth planning practice: First, writings closely related to under capitalism has in itself always been realised the field of industrial ecology with a focus on urban through increased use of biophysical resources (see, metabolism and integrated urban technical systems e.g. Jackson 2009; Blauwhof 2012). The ironic part of in terms of waste, water and energy; and second, the green fix is that if the municipality succeeds and writings closely related to sociology that address geo- does indeed manage to capitalise in direct pecuniary graphies of consumption, consumption culture and terms from its green policy – one way or the other – INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF URBAN SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT 171 and improves its growth rates, this will most likely also SymbioCity – to try to make money from exporting ‘ratchet up Malmö’s metabolism of energy and raw ‘urban sustainability’. Here the two different meanings materials’ (Holgersen and Malm 2015, p. 285). of Harvey’s ‘fix’ come together, as the green fix travels What we define as sustainable urbanism depends to reap financial gains from other locales. But with this upon how we understand space, both internationally also the ‘territorial’ view on space faces challenges. As and within cities. A consumption-based view on emis- one (attempt to) export ‘urban sustainability’, one sions will reveal massive differences between rich and need to pack space into a container, and then make poor city districts, this in sharp contrast to a produc- it travel in space. tion-based view that gives us little of that sort. Environmental ”role models” and ‘world green- In this paper, we have seen how differences est cities’ are place-specific social constructions. As between production- and consumption-based num- they need to come with production-based bers of measuring emissions are highly spatial. approach to measuring emissions, as well as ignor- Consumption-based GHG accounting or ecological ing affluence, they can easily be placed in the footprint measurements could work as tools to allow richest countries in the world (which they conven- more relational thinking in planning practice, but if tionally are). Now, with exporting ‘urban sustain- so-called environmental role models want to maintain ability’, the challenge is to make something place- their reputation they will need to see elsewhere. specific here, into something that can be exported over there. We think this is one of the reasons why the export strategy of Swedish urban sustainability 5. Concluding reflections has never really worked (apart from its ideological Branding cities and city districts as environmental role and discursive merits). models are currently coming with selective views on From this, we will conclude that spatial myopia space. So-called environmental ”role models” – like is not a random process. Not seeing ‘beyond’ we have seen with Western Harbour in Malmö – are certain borders (e.g. city districts, cities, nations) completely dependent upon what we call spatial should not be understood as a matter of laziness myopia. We can see the spatial myopia from three or incompetence. Spatial myopia is not a question (inter-related) vantage points. of not being able to see ‘far enough’. It should First, how to measure emissions: We have rather be grasped as a strategically chosen view shown in this paper that choosing production- on space that favours ones interests: a socially based, and not consumption-based, approaches to constructed view on space that enables certain measuring emissions is absolutely crucial for cities policies. It is not the case that the public officers that currently seek to brand themselves as ‘envir- in Malmö or elsewhere in Sweden are not aware onmental friendly’. of consumption-based ways of measuring emis- Second, where to look and what to see: In this sions, or that affluence correlates with higher paper, we have seen that Swedish cities and city dis- emissions. It is rather the case that they simply tricts that want to promote themselves as environ- need to ignore these facts, otherwise would large mental friendly need to ignore the fact that they parts of the sustainable urbanism discourse fall completely depend upon industrial production else- apart. where. Selective spatial views are also needed within If we take the challenge of climate change ser- cities: affluent city districts can only be defined sus- iously, we need to understand our policies in terms tainable if we completely ignore, for example, any of both production-based and consumption-based relations between social class and emissions. numbers, we need to understand space as both ter- Third, how to understand space: The spatial myo- ritorial and relational, and we need to understand pia relates to views on space that authors have called the geography of class in the city. However, these are ‘absolute’, ‘territorial’, or ‘container view’ (see, e.g. more radical statements that they perhaps can Lefebvre 1991; Harvey 1996; Massey 2005). Here appear to be at first sight. It would immediately clear boundaries need to be drawn, and broader geo- identify people with money as one major source of graphical contexts ignored. the problem, and the lists of environmental ”role One important component in Malmö’s ecological models” and ‘worlds greenest cities’ would need to ‘green fix’ is – in accordance with the overall policy of be rewritten. 172 S. HOLGERSEN AND A. HULT Note Holgersen S. 2017. Staden och Kapitalet. Malmö i krisernas tid [City and Capital. Malmö in times of crises]. Göteborg: Daidalos. 1. Malmö is also frequently discussed among researchers as Holgersen S, Malm A. 2015. “Green fix” as crisis management. Or, some sort of pioneering city (see e.g. Krueger and Gibbs In which world is Malmö the world’s greenest city? 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International Journal of Urban Sustainable Development
– Taylor & Francis
Published: May 4, 2021
Keywords: Sustainability; urban politics; Malmö; ecological footprints; place branding; green fix; climate change; urban sustainable development; production-based and consumption-based approaches to measuring emissions; ecological modernisation