Urban challenges in the green transition hashed out during Nordregio Forum 2022
How can we use urban planning to create greener, healthier, and more inclusive cities? This was the core question explored on the second day of the annual Nordregio Forum hosted last week in the Innlandet region of Norway. More than 130 Nordic professionals and policymakers came together in the budding town of Hamar, which is known for its stunning bike trials and impressive diving tower in Lake Mjøsa. This proximity to nature is what Erik Vieth Pedersen, Deputy Director General at the Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, argued citizens value most in a city. “It seems we like to live in cities, but we also long for green spaces,” he said in his opening remarks. Serving people and nature This theme was expanded on by Nordregio Senior Researcher Luciane Aguiar Borges who presented the NORDGREEN project, which looks at how high-quality green spaces in cities can promote equity, health and wellbeing. She noted that urbanisation is a key challenge for public health, and that even before the pandemic around 27% of the adult EU population suffered from mental health problems. “Green public spaces are resources for improving well-being and preventing illnesses, but smart urban planning is the key,” Aguiar Borges explained. One city that has embraced innovative tools for green space planning is Espoo, the second largest city in Finland. With funding through the NORDGREEN project, they have carried out a map-based survey that has reached more than 6,600 Espoo residents, including 2000 children. “We asked them to mark places that are meaningful to them on the map, as well as ideas for development and almost 70,000 marks were made in total,” stated Johanna Palomäki, former Espoo city representative in the project. She explained that together with Aalto University they were able to analyse a significant amount of…
Nordregio Forum 2022 tackles the green transition and the mismatch in the labour market
Last week, more than 130 Nordic professionals and policymakers descended on the evolving town of Hamar in the green heartland of Norway for the annual Nordregio Forum. Once again an in-person event, participants delved into the green transition and what it means for jobs and cities in the Nordic region. “Even though Norway and the Nordics are among the best places to live, there are clouds on the horizon,” explained Gerd Slinning, Deputy Director General at the Norwegian Ministry of Local Government and Regional Development, in her opening remarks. She noted that Hamar is a city that has been through profound changes in last 15 years and is a good example of the possibility the Nordics have in the green transition, but recruiting a competent workforce is a daunting challenge. Tackling the labor market mismatch was the focus of the first day of the forum and Even Aleksander Hagen, Innlandet County Mayor, explained in his keynote speech that they have big dreams for their region. “We have Norway’s highest mountain, longest river, and biggest lake,” he boasted and explained they hope to create 25,000 jobs in the bio-economy. But he acknowledged they are facing an uphill battle in matching the skills with the available jobs and hope to address this mismatch with re-education and attracting new inhabitants. A panel discussion followed where Nordic experts reflected on the reasons for and potential solutions to the labour market mismatch and the effects of the green transition. Kresten Olesen, Director of RegLab in Denmark, noted that the speed with which the green transition is happening is a real challenge as developing new skills takes time. Meanwhile, Jimmy Sand from the Swedish Secretariat for Gender Research argued that for the green transition to work we need to tackle the gender segregation problem in…
Making Europe – and especially rural areas – climate neutral
What kind of transformational changes are needed, effective and just to reach climate neutrality by 2050? EU-funded SHERPA project has just published a new position paper “Climate change & Environmental Sustainability” that focuses on finding answers to the: How do policies facilitate the transition? And what research gaps still exist? Sustainable Hub to Engage into Rural Policies with Actors (SHERPA) is a four-year project (2019-2023) with 17 partners funded by the Horizon 2020 programme. The special thing about the SHERPA project is how it works with the local stakeholders and generates policy-relevant research together at the local level and delivers information to the EU level. Nordregio is a partner in the SHERPA project and steers the work of several of these Multi-Stakeholder Platforms (MAPs). The MAPs have identified local threats and challenges to living and working in ways that will enable transitions towards climate neutrality, and opportunities which could be created and pursued. Based on these discussions, the new Position Paper highlights pathways for a just green transition, including adaptation to climate change. Read the latest Position Paper “Climate change & Environmental Sustainability” Nordregio has been part of several SHERPA publications: Slätmo, E., Löfving, L. (2022) MAP Position Paper (Sweden) – Digitalisation in rural areas. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.7243911 MAP_PP-SW_final.pdf (rural-interfaces.eu) AND MAP_PP-SW_Swedish-version_final.pdf (rural-interfaces.eu) Stjernberg, M., Salonen, H. (eds.) (2022) MAP Position Paper (Finland) – Digitalisation in rural areas. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.7235125 MAP_PP-FI_final.pdf (rural-interfaces.eu) Mändmets, A., Kärk, K. (2022) MAP Position Paper (Estonia) – Social dimension of rural areas DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.7249600 MAP_PP-Estonia_final.pdf (rural-interfaces.eu) Ormstrup Vestergård, L., Refsgaard, K. (2022) MAP Position Paper (Denmark) – Land use and climate change. DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.7251683 MAP_PP-DK_final.pdf (rural-interfaces.eu) AND MAP_PP-DK_Danish.pdf (rural-interfaces.eu)
New publication: Combatting long-term unemployment among immigrants
Nordregio researchers, in collaboration with the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Nordic Welfare Centre, published a new report Combatting long-term unemployment among immigrants. The publication aims to identify key policy measures, institutions, civil society actors, and initiatives that have been used to address the situation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, immigrants were more likely to face long-term unemployment than their native-born peers across all Nordic countries. The new publication describes the extent of the challenge posed by long-term unemployment among immigrants in each Nordic country before, during and after the COVID-19 pandemic. “The challenge ahead is to improve matching on the labour market. There are many jobs available in the Nordics. Job-seekers need up-skilling and training that meet employers’ needs,” said Nora Sánchez Gassen, Senior Research Fellow at Nordregio. The research highlights local practices that have proved successful in helping long-term unemployed, non-European, often poorly educated immigrants improve their skills and find work – and analyse what these practices have in common and what we can learn from them. “It’s clear that there are common traits in training programmes and initiatives that are successful in getting long-term unemployed back to work. We collected them in a ‘Checklist’ of Nordic learnings to inspire policy-makers and programme designers to make more holistic and effective programmes and avoid pitfalls,” said Åsa Ström Hildestrand, Head of Communications and Project Manager Agenda 2030 at Nordregio. (You will find the Checklist in the final chapter of the publication). The report also elucidates how long-term unemployment and labour market inactivity among immigrants have been discussed and approached at the national level in each Nordic country during and after the pandemic.
The housing of tomorrow: Boverket and Nordregio workshop
The Swedish National Board on Housing, Building, and Planning (Boverket) and Nordregio invited a group of property developers and other housing actors to discuss trends and innovation in housing development and their implications for the future. Boverket presented their project “Housing for the Future”, Nordregio researcher Anna Granath Hansson, landscape architect Annelie Mårtensson, architect Maria Teder, lawyer Assar Lindén, economist Oskar Gramstad and Ida Borg from Stockholm university discussed housing issues in Sweden. “One important input from developers was that novel concepts (or renewed use of older ones) should be applicable not only in new buildings but also in already existing ones, as new construction only accounts for around one percent of the housing stock. There was an interesting discussion on the division between the private, semi-private and public sphere in connection to cooperative and sharing solutions”, said Anna Granath Hansson. Discussions also lead to housing in relation to its neighborhood and how the built environment can contribute to goals like a sharing economy, increased robustness and the green transition. The possible alternative combinations of housing tenure, financing, and management and their relevance in the Swedish context have also been discussed. Experts gave interesting examples of flexible housing from Sweden, Finland, and Germany that might be suited to different residents based on their preferences. Nordregio and Boverket would like to thank all participants for their active contribution to discussions and for many fruitful insights that can be used in projects.
Nordic municipalities are taking local SDG action
On 13-14 October, Nordic municipalities and organisations came to Nordregio for a two-day event of peer-to-peer workshops and matchmaking sessions. Together, the representatives joined forces to establish roadmaps for different SDG partnerships over the next six months. Some municipalities will test different stakeholder engagement methods together and share best practices, others will dive into municipal processes and how to improve information-based decision-making. The event preparation goes back to June 2022, when Nordregio sent out a survey to Nordic municipalities, asking how they are progressing with their local Agenda 2030 implementation and what kind of support is still needed. The responses indicated a clear demand for a workshop with a hands-on approach. Therefore, the programme was tailored to avoid PowerPoint marathons but rather focused on dialogue-based workshops about selected topics. These included governance and steering, citizen and other stakeholder engagement, indicators and monitoring, climate policies and the SDGs. Some of the tools that were explored during the workshops also included the Swedish Kolada indicator set, the SDG sensemaking tool developed by the City of Espoo and the SDG impact assessment tool from the Gothenburg Centre for Sustainable Development/SDSN Northern Europe. On the second day, representatives from the municipalities were matched according to indicated level of local ‘SDG status’, and geography, and with emphasis on a balanced Nordic mix to explore potential partnerships. The sessions allowed the groups to deepen their knowledge exchange, and at the same time co-create different roadmaps for the coming six months. They committed to meeting from time to time and sharing respective learnings on ongoing SDG activities and efforts. In parallel, representatives from the Norwegian, Swedish and Icelandic associations of local authorities and regions and other Nordic networks also had a dedicated workshop to strengthen their collaboration on some joint priority areas across the countries. Even though actors at the local level…