Waterfront view of Sweden’s Royal Palace in the Gamla Stan (Old Town) section of Stockholm. The Royal Palace is the official residence of the Swedish royal family.

STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN—Stockholm is aligned with the Swedish government in its belief that climate change is one of the world’s greatest challenges. Sweden’s parliament, prompted in part by the 2015 Paris climate agreement, has proposed a fossil-free Sweden initiative under which the nation would become fossil-fuel free by 2045.

The city has an even more ambitious goal: eliminate all net carbon emissions by 2040. The biggest challenge that remains for the city on its way to the 2040 net-zero emissions goal is to greatly reduce or eliminate carbon emissions from transportation. To do so, the city will have to depend virtually entirely on renewable fuels and electricity for transport by 2040.

Hard-to-Eliminate Emissions

Reducing transportation emissions is particularly challenging because the city’s population is growing rapidly and some of the city’s traffic emissions is caused by regional development. In addition, the city cannot control air travel or shipping to Stockholm without new national and international agreements.

Nonetheless, the city is currently investigating the possibility of issuing a complete ban on fossil fuel sales in 2040 with interim restrictions put in place by 2030. The city is also looking into the possibility of requiring fossil-fuel-free navigation in the port.

Maritime transport accounts for 4 percent of Stockholm’s total emissions and 10 percent of its transport emissions. Ships calling at the Stockholm Royal Seaport currently operate mainly on bunker oil or diesel fuel.

The port is working to increase the proportion of ships using dockside electrical connections instead of on-board fossil-fuel-fired generators. In the future, port fees could be structured to provide shipping companies with incentives to use renewable fuels—such as biofuel or bio-oil—or LNG, a fossil fuel with lower emissions than oil or diesel, as well as the port’s electrical connections.

In addition to emissions from shipping, Stockholm’s emissions accounting also includes fossil fuels consumed by trains within its borders, as well as aviation kerosene consumed from ground level up to 915 meters above Stockholm Bromma Airport.

Plastics made from fossil fuels and mixed with the municipal waste that the city burns in its district heating plants are also hard-to-eliminate. Between now and 2050, the city will strive to increase the share of its plastics made from bio-based (non-fossil-fuel) materials.

It will also try to sort more plastic from its waste stream for recycling, but there are limits. Plastic fibers cannot be indefinitely recycled without breaking down. The city therefore assumes that some plastic will still be incinerated in 2050.

Necessary Exclusions

In its emissions accounting, the city does not count the carbon generated in producing food and goods for Stockholmers outside the city’s boundaries, nor the carbon produced by…