In southeastern Sweden, Kristianstad (population 77,000) is home to vibrant agricultural and food-processing industries and to Absolut Vodka. It was also the first municipality in the western world to decide to eliminate its use of fossil fuels. That was in 1999. By 2008, Kristianstad had cut its use of fossil fuels in half. How is it managing to make “fossil-fuel freedom” a reality?
Although the private sector and national government have been important to Kristianstad’s success to date, the municipality has been the primary agent of change. It jump-started the investment of time, talent, and resources. Kristianstad Energy Ltd., a municipally-owned company, has been working since the 1980s to make biofuel, not oil, the source of local heat and power. A second municipal asset, Renhållningen Kristianstad, has been producing biogas from industrial and household organic wastes since 1997. The municipality has also invested in wind and solar power in order ultimately to satisfy local electrical demand from renewables. Within the framework of comprehensive, long-term strategies, the municipality has blended national and local money into its initiatives. It closely tracks their impact on energy production, emissions, and savings. It uses partnerships to increase local capacity and to engage the citizenry at large.
Like Kirklees, U.K., with its programs for energy efficiency, Kristianstad offers examples of nearly all seven of the principles of resilience in action: diversity, modularity, and a measure of redundancy (“overlap”) to defend against system-wide shocks; tight feedback loops; and a serious emphasis on social capital, innovation, and the market value of all the services which the ecosystem provides for free.
This article is an excerpt from The Resilience Imperative: Co-operative Transitions to a Steady-State Economy, by Michael Lewis and Pat Conaty (New Society Publishers, June 2012).
This article has been produced in partnership with Canadian Social Economy Research Partnerships, the BC-Alberta Social Economy Research Alliance (BALTA) and with funding from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).