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Towards sustainable Nordic city-regions

During the period 2013–2016, the Nordic Working Group for Green Growth: Sustainable Urban Regions (NWG4) (archive) and Nordregio have, developed and shared knowledge about sustainable urban development, planning and green growth. Working in close collaboration with representatives from ministries and national authorities, policymakers and municipal and regional planners within larger Nordic city-regions, we have identified a number of common challenges and opportunities for sustainable urban development. City-regions are important arenas for addressing the many challenges associated with urban sustainability, inclusiveness and attractiveness. This synthesis highlights some of these key challenges, indicates where there is potential to develop more sustainable and co-ordinated planning and policy-making. It also provides insight into implementation, monitoring and evaluation of various plans and policies through different tools, models and concepts. In addition to outlining common challenges and opportunities for Nordic urban areas and governing city-regions, this report highlights some of the specific national concerns for city-regional planning in Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. It also provides an overview of municipal reforms and regional reforms in the Nordic region and an introduction to all the Nordic spatial planning systems. First comes a brief overview of the challenges addressed in this report. The following sections (challenges for Nordic urban areas and challenges for governing city-regions) describe these in more depth as well as contextualising them with relation to the main findings from connected projects carried out by Nordregio. This is followed by national overviews of the spatial planning systems and regional reforms in all Nordic countries, as well as national concerns for city-regional planning. The report concludes with a section about the NWG4 and a list of the related Nordregio publications.

The impact of migration on projected population trends in Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden: 2015–2080

The population of a country grows or declines as a result of the combination of two trends. One is natural increase, the difference between the number of births and deaths. A number of European countries have been experiencing ‘negative natural increase’ (i.e. more deaths than births) because women have had fertility rates well below two children per woman and older age structures. In recent decades, the Nordic countries have had positive natural increase as a result of having relatively higher fertility rates of just below two children per woman and relatively younger age structures. Around the turn of the century, the United Nations (UN) (2001) published a report entitled ‘Replacement Migration: Is it a solution to declining and ageing populations?’. It described population decline and population ageing as two critical trends that could have large-scale social and economic implications for the European Union and other regions and countries around the world. Population decline is defined as the shrinking of population numbers caused by an excess in the number of deaths and emigration over the number of births and immigration. Population ageing refers to the increase in the number of older people relative to the rest of the population. It is caused by increasing longevity coupled with declines in fertility (Coleman 2002). Hence, population ageing and decline are the result of trends in fertility, mortality and migration. In its report, the UN investigated the role of international migration in preventing further ageing and population decline in Europe and elsewhere. The UN referred to the respective required migration levels as ‘replacement migration’. In the European Union (EU), in 2001 consisting of 15 member states1) , the UN (2001) concluded that the population could be kept from declining in size if future migration levels remained stable at the levels experienced between 1990 and…

Scenarios for 2015-2080: The impact of migration on population and ageing

One possible policy option for countries concerned about declining or aging populations is replacement migration – allowing or even encouraging international migration in order to counteract decline and aging of native populations. In the past two decades, net international migration into the Nordic region has been a much larger contributor to population growth than natural increase. This policy brief explores the likely demographic contribution of migration to population growth in the Nordic countries in the future and the extent that it could compensate for population decline or aging. The population of a country grows or declines as a result of the combination of two trends. One is natural increase, the difference between the number of births and deaths. A number of European countries have been experiencing ‘negative natural increase’ (i.e. more deaths than births) because women have had fertility rates well below two children per woman and older age structures. In recent decades, the Nordic countries have had positive natural increase as a result of having relatively higher fertility rates of just below two children per woman and relatively younger age structures. The other trend influencing population change is net migration,the difference between immigration and emigration. Overall for the Nordic region, natural increase has accounted for about one-third of total population increase since 1990, and net migration about two-thirds. The relative contribution of migration to population growth has increased even more in the past decade with the large influx of refugees and others into the Nordic countries.The Nordic countries, particularly Sweden, have been among the largest recipients of refugees among the EU countries. Nonetheless,the demographic impact of international migration does not seem to be a prime concern in the migration policies of the Nordic governments. Only in Finland does the government explicitly acknowledge the ageing process of the population and…

Multi-level Territorial Governance and Cohesion Policy: Structural Funds and the Timing of Development in Palermo and the Italian Mezzogiorno

This article explores the role of changing arrangements of multi-level territorial governance in the European Cohesion Policy. It hypothesises the existence of a temporal duality between successful/unsuccessful phases of Cohesion Policy between the 1990s and 2000s, that is, a structural change in the implementation of Structural Funds stemming from the reforms at the turn of the millennium. The article seeks to understand the implications of such a duality using case study analysis, with the theoretical aim of exploring in-depth the connections between the European and the local scale. It analyses in the long term (1994-2013) the use of Structural Funds for urban development in a specific context, the city of Palermo in the Objective 1 region of Sicily, under-explored by international literature. The phases of Structural Funds are understood in the wider context of Palermo, Sicily and Southern Italy, emphasising the temporal coherence between (i) the phases of autonomous/dependent development, (ii) evolution/involution in the implementation of cohesion policies, and (iii) shifting multi-level territorial governance arrangements. The local case confirms the duality hypothesised and, based on this, wider considerations for the future of Cohesion Policy are set out. This article is published by the European Journal of Spatial Development (archive), which in turn is published by Nordregio and Delft University of Technology, Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment.

GREEN GROWTH IN NORDIC REGIONS 50 ways to make it happen

In the transition to a greener economy there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. Accordingly, Green Growth in Nordic Regions explores green growth through a wide lens, showcasing 50 examples of green growth in a broad range of contexts, both urban and rural. Together, these examples highlight the key characteristics of Nordic green growth and are designed to be a source of inspiration for both practitioners and policy-makers. A key feature of the collection is the analysis of the regional dimension of each case. Regional conditions play an important role in supporting green thinking and planning and, in turn, green initiatives can have a substantial impact on regional development. Better understanding these pre-conditions and impacts often plays a role in successful green growth practices and can also increases the potential for different green practices to be adapted and implemented elsewhere. As such, we hope this collection will contribute to the exchange of good practice in the Nordic countries, across Europe and around the world. The dynamic nature of green growth in the Nordic region makes it difficult to put each initiative neatly in a box. In fact, most of the cases presented in this collection cut across two, three or even more of the categories above. The purpose of the categories is to provide the reader with a short introduction to some key concepts in the green growth field, using the cases most relevant to each concept as practical examples. It is important to note that, although all of the cases profiled here make some contribution to the green economy, this does not necessarily mean that every facet of their operation is environmentally friendly. For example, a recycling operation may make a strong contribution to the circular economy while still relying on fossil fuels for transportation of waste. The transition to a green economy…

Nordic Green Growth Road Show

The Nordic Green Growth Road Show programme was commissioned by the Nordic Working Group for Green Growth – Innovation and Entrepreneurship and coordinated by Nordregio in partnership with local actors. Over 200 green growth actors participated in the Road Show events, which were held in ten locations across the Nordic Region between May and October, 2016. The Road Show was one of the final activities of the Nordic Working Group on Green Growth – Innovation and Entrepreneurship and was an excellent opportunity to reflect on the progress that has occurred since the group’s inception in 2013. Each Road Show event provided insight into the current status of green growth in the Nordic Region as well as a platform through which to gather ideas to inform joint Nordic efforts going forward. The feedback from the regional Road Show events suggests that there has been a rapid increase in awareness of green growth across all five Nordic countries and the Nordic islands and that green growth is now high on the agenda across the region. Despite the headway that has been made overall, differences are also apparent with respect to progress both in the adoption of green thinking and in the implementation of green strategies. Specific topics that were high on the agenda at many (though not all) Road Show events included: Public-private partnerships Regional branding Playing to regional/local strengths Regulations and policy support Networks and collaboration at the local and regional level Participants also provided valuable insights to pave the way forward for Nordic cooperation in the green growth field. Priorities included: Promoting opportunities for information sharing and networking at a range of levels Further development of the ‘Nordic green identity’ More opportunities to participate in joint (Nordic) projects Joint advocacy from Nordic countries Overall, the most valuable component of the…

A Spatial Analysis of City-Regions: Urban Form & Service Accessibility

This project was completed on behalf of the Nordic working group for Green Growth – sustainable urban regions under the Nordic Committee of Senior Officials for Regional Policy, Nordic Council of Ministers. This working group focuses on how spatial planning can support the development of attractive and sustainable city-regions, along with contributing to the development of beneficial tools for city-regional planning. To understand the urban form of a city, planners must engage with complex questions of density, land use distribution, and accessibility to services and amenities. These issues, in turn, relate to critical strategic planning goals, such as regional equity, attractiveness, and environmental sustainability. In our research, conducted on behalf of the Nordic Working Group for Green Growth – sustainable urban regions, we tested a new methodological approach for integrating and measuring several of these dimensions. In doing so, we provided a spatial analysis of population density, service accessibility, and commuting pattern metrics of four case study areas in the Nordic Region: Funen (DK), Stockholm (SE), Tampere (FI) and Trondheim (NO). This analysis was applied with the following general principle in mind: where many types of services, public transportation and other amenities that people take benefit from in their everyday life are available within a convenient time distance, we can talk of well-functioning nodes in the urban form of a city. By considering this principle in relation to the urban patterns that are mapped, we aimed to determine how our analytical approach can be relevant for strategic planners working at the municipal or regional level.

Public-Private-People Partnership in urban planning

This Working Paper Public–Private–People Partnerships in Urban Planning is one of the deliverables of the Baltic Urban Lab project (Central Baltic INTERREG), and it discusses the potentials and challenges in Public–private–people partnerships and presents examples of methods for partnership and participation. This Working Paper aims to provide a theoretical background for all Baltic Urban Lab partners and other cities to improve their understanding of the concept of public–private–people partnerships (4Ps), as well as to give inspiration for cities when they develop and test 4P approaches in their brownfield regeneration processes. The Working Paper consists of theoretical discussion focusing on the potentials and challenges of 4P approaches based on a research review, as well as on practical examples of how cities can involve various actors in their planning processes. This Working Paper is one of the first steps of the Baltic Urban Lab project and it will be followed by practical city pilots in 2016–2018. During the project period, Nordregio will observe and analyse the pilot actions from the perspective of the main questions that arose in this Working Paper related to, for example, what can be done to successfully involve private actors and residents in planning processes, what are the challenges, and what can be gained from successful 4P approaches. A final report on the lessons learned from the project will be available in 2018.

Transit-oriented development and sustainable urban planning

This policy brief considers how links between transport and land-use planning policies can be promoted in urban and regional development strategies. It primarily targets urban policymakers in Europe wanting to learn more about the notion of transit-oriented development (TOD) and how the concept is implemented in practical projects. The term transit-oriented development (TOD) is rarely used in Europe, even though the concept has been intrinsic in planning practice across many countries. TOD is sometimes called by other names or included in sets of related policies and concepts. In this policy brief we provide an introduction to TOD related urban policies in Amsterdam, Vienna and Stockholm including illustrative examples. Current planning policy in Austria, the Netherlands, and Sweden indicate support for sustainable and resilient urban and regional development, and includeTOD in some way. However, recent trends in liberalization and the recent economic crisis have favoured more market-led developments. As a result, the interests of developers are generally placed ahead of strategic efforts to structure cities and regions in more environmentally sustainable ways. The information presented in this Policy Brief is derived from a review of the concept and its application in different parts of Europe.The review was carried out as part of the JPI Urban Europe CASUAL project.

Experiments and innovations in ‘soft’ urban planning: urban living labs

In the current era, in which cities are considered to be key arenas for coping with a number of societal challenges, there is also renewed interest in the mobilisation of experimental practices within urban planning. Corresponding initiatives that are targeted at promoting co-creation, exploration, experimentation, and evaluation, such as urban living labs, must be understood in relation to the uncertainty regarding the post-modern growth paradigm and its institutional arrangements. This policy brief discusses the opportunities and challenges of the urban living labs concept and related experimental practices from an urban planning and governance perspective. It will be argued that the core principles of urban living labs (i.e. co-creation, exploration, experimentation, and evaluation) offer a useful analytical and theoretical frame to understand and position different informal self-organizing initiatives in contemporary urban development. Furthermore, considered as a planning practice (or methodology), urban living labs (or similar approaches that are expected to support innovations and experimentation within urban planning) can be construed as a temporary, informal mode of ‘soft’ governance which include a number of merits in terms of defining innovative pathways for urban planning beyond ‘business as usual’ thinking. However, caution must be taken due to a number of inherent shortcomings of such soft governance approaches in terms of democratic legitimacy, tendencies towards exclusiveness, and extreme temporality. This Policy Brief is one of four policy briefs that was published within the JPI Urban Europe CASUAL project.