Table of Contents

  • Nordic countries are working to mitigate and adapt to climate change at all levels. Counteracting and coping with climate change is a guiding principle for a wide range of Nordic initiatives.

  • Local authorities have been recognised as key actors when it comes to responding to the challenges of climate change, regarding both mitigation and adaptation measures. Nordic municipalities are among the leading local authorities in sustainable development and climate change work in the world. Climate change still remains a very challenging task for municipalities to handle. Along with requiring long-term decision-making and cooperation across all municipal sectors, new ways to work need to be adopted. What makes it easier to grasp is that reducing greenhouse gas emissions, when thoughtfully executed, often has positive side effects, such as monetary savings or improvements in local air quality.

  • Local authorities have been recognised as key actors when it comes to responding to the challenges of climate change. Nordic municipalities have been working with sustainable development for two decades already, and have, in recent years, compiled ambitious climate strategies and action plans. This study gathers valuable information about climate change management in Nordic municipalities and gives a general view to how local climate work is being handled in Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden.

  • In general, Nordic municipalities in Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden are working actively and mostly voluntarily for climate change mitigation and adaptation. However, there is no “one size fits all” solution but the countries differ in many respects – the national framework conditions being the most crucial difference. This became very clear already when starting this study; as in some countries, this was the first survey on the topic among municipalities, and in others, it was feared that the excess supply of questionnaires on climate issues would result in low response rates. In Finland, and especially in Sweden some similar surveys have been made before on local climate change work; but in Norway and Iceland, less information was available. The success factors and challenges that we found are very similar in all countries, but this is also affected by the activities taken at the national level and what kinds of needs for support the municipalities have.

  • This study is part of the NordLead project, aiming at recognising the success factors and needs for support in Nordic local climate change work. The project and this study focus on Finnish, Icelandic, Norwegian and Swedish municipalities. The NordLead project is led by Union of the Baltic Cities, Commission on Environment, and it is partly funded by the Nordic Council of Ministers. Other project partners are Nordregio, the Association of Finnish Local and Regional Association, the Icelandic Association of Local Authorities, the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities and the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions.

  • A rather high proportion of Swedish municipalities have voluntary climate change strategies in place. Political support from the national level already exists. In the past years, financial support and programmes have been used by the state to encourage municipalities to tackle the issue of climate change. These range from local investment programmes to grants for wind power planning, hiring an energy counsellor and energyefficiency support. According to our survey, one of the most important forms of support has been the ongoing energy efficiency support from the Swedish Energy Agency.

  • Differing from other countries in this study, Norwegian municipalities have been required by regulation to have energy and climate plans since 2010; currently, 410 out of some 430 municipalities have climate and energy plans in place. They have been able to receive financial support for climate and energy projects from the public enterprise Enova, contributing to environmentally sound and rational use and production or energy. In its programme called Climate Municipalities, Enova supports municipal energy and climate plans given that the plan adhered to a given set of criteria. Enova can provide up to 50% of the project costs for the measures, up to NOK 100,000.

  • In 2012, the proportion of all Finnish municipalities that have a climate change strategy in place or are preparing one is 34%. This means that Finnish municipalities have less climate change strategies in place than municipalities in Sweden and Norway. One reason for the relatively low proportion is that municipalities haven’t received similar amounts of financial support from the state to prepare local climate strategies. Still, the amount of municipal climate change strategies has been increasing in recent years. A survey similar to this was made in 2009, and it was discovered that only 11% of Finnish municipalities had a climate change strategy in place.

  • Iceland has 74 municipalities, of which the capital Reykjavík has some 37% of the total Icelandic population. Reykjavík outnumbers other Icelandic municipalities and is one of the three municipalities having a climate change strategy in place in Iceland. In Iceland, the local work addressing climate change is only beginning in many municipalities. In general, climate change is not seen as a threat by the local politicians or citizens, rather as a benefit. In smaller municipalities, acting on this issue is solely depending on enthusiastic individuals.

  • One of the main tasks of the survey is to identify factors that have a major role in leading the municipalities to develop climate change responses. As seen from the survey results, there are big differences in how municipalities in different Nordic countries work with climate change issues. In Iceland, 11% of municipalities have a climate strategy or they are preparing one. In Finland, the proportion is 34%, in Sweden 81% and in Norway 99%. Mostly, these strategies are focused on climate change mitigation or a combination of mitigation and adaptation to climate change.