Mayor of Stockholm: ‘We want to be the impact capital of the world’

Few years have given humankind as much cause for reflection as 2020. But in the eyes of Anna König Jerlmyr, the Mayor of Stockholm, reflecting on your purpose and the impact you can have has always been crucial.

Mayor of Stockholm: 'We want to be the impact capital of the world'

She's one of many mayors across Europe, from Ada Colau in Barcelona to Sadiq Khan in London, seeking to show how their cities can rise to the unique challenges of the present – and thrive in the post-pandemic world.

In this interview with The Local, König Jerlmyr tells us why Stockholm is a great place for finding balance, meaning, and a positive vision of the future – as well as revealing how the city can still improve, both by learning from others and by following its own ambitions.

A city of balance

The 21st century has been referred to as the century of the city. So, what makes Stockholm a special city to live and work in?

“The balance between the city and nature,” says König Jerlmyr. “As well as work-life balance, which makes it an attractive place to raise a family. We also have free schools up to 19 years old, as well as international pre-schools and elementary schools.”

While many international people are aware of such advantages to life in Sweden, the capital city also makes a significant global business impact for its size. How does Stockholm do it?

“Agility and problem-solving are vital,” says König Jerlmyr, who then outlines a multitude of factors underpinning these qualities. “We’re quite small so we can perhaps move faster than bigger countries or cities. We had home computing very early and people are used to digital tools – we could be the first country without cash and the first to use e-currency.

Stockholm is a global talent hub that values quality of life – find out more

“We have no problem communicating with the international community in English and we are used to sharing ideas and knowledge. Plus, here you’re not afraid to talk to your boss!”

People driven by purpose

Stockholm is especially attractive to international talent due to the quest for meaning in life that many people feel now more than ever, believes the Mayor.

“Values are a great way of attracting talent and Stockholm as a city is trustworthy, visionary and free. We will strive to be the impact capital of the world,” she says.

“Purpose is what drives people these days, not only the salary or the bonus. You want to create something good and leave things better than when you started.”

A culture of collaboration 

Real leaders must know when to listen to others. Many European cities and their leaders are in close dialogue about how to manage economic recovery after Covid-19 and create more sustainable societies.

König Jerlmyr, who was President of Eurocities for two years until November, says Stockholm learns from many leading cities. For example, she says both London and Warsaw have shared insights about staging cultural events digitally during the Covid-19 pandemic. Helsinki has also provided inspiration in terms of focusing on solutions for the post-pandemic world.

“The Mayor of Helsinki and I have talked about being even more ambitious about stimulus packages for digital innovation after this,” she says.

While Stockholm is widely recognised as an innovation hub, there’s at least one area where König Jerlmyr says the city must learn from the US tech scene. “We’re progressing in terms of commercialising innovation in our universities,” she says. “But we’re still not as good as many US universities.” 

Want to live in a city where purpose is at the forefront? Find out why talented people are moving to Stockholm

Why cities are key to solving climate change

Climate change may have moved down the news agenda in 2020. But the pandemic has shown people just how vital protecting the environment is, says König Jerlmyr. “We have so many green areas in Stockholm. We also have lots of water and the air and water are clean,” she says. 

The City of Stockholm has set itself the goals of becoming a “fossil free organisation” by 2030 and “a climate positive city” by 2040. “We need a sense of urgency on sustainability and to work with effective measures, otherwise it will be too late for future generations,” she continues. “That’s why we want to be the world’s first climate positive city.”

Looking at the issue from a pan-European perspective, she says: “It’s not only about EU member states. Cities are more agile and ambitious. With climate change, the main part of the problem is in cities, but it’s also where the solutions are; cities work to bring together the universities and the business community.”

Supporting female founders in tech

Stockholm is a hugely successful start-up hub and one of the world’s most gender-equal nations. But the lack of women in the technology industry remains an issue everywhere. 

“The idea of feminism through ownership is a really interesting area – women owning more companies and property,” says the Mayor. “Just a small amount of investment goes to female founders. I’m always trying to meet women entrepreneurs and I’m very active in the Women in Tech movement.”

She wants a wide-ranging approach that also looks at the roots of the issue. “Maths is crucial for girls in school,” she adds. “We have some great role models but it’s still not 50/50 and there’s a long way to go.” 

What about diversity in other areas? The Mayor recalls attending an event at Epicenter Stockholm, which aims to “supercharge” growth for digital scale-ups and entrepreneurs.

“They recruited talented people from around the world,” she says. “What matters is whether you have the cognitive skills to be a really good programmer – not where you’re from, your ethnic background or sexuality.”

The future: work permits while you wait

In recent years, stories have emerged about skilled international workers being deported from Sweden due to often minor administrative errors. The issue relates to national laws but the Mayor of Stockholm says she's doing all she can to address it.

“I’m ashamed when I hear about people being deported, so I’m really working hard on that,” she says. “We're really lobbying for Sweden to have a national talent strategy.”

What are her other future priorities? She wants to see the first Stockholm 'unicorn' business owned by a woman. More broadly, she wants to make the city as supportive and attractive as possible for international talent. This would mean introducing an Entrepreneur’s Visa, a Talent Visa and more e-services you could access before even moving to Stockholm.

The city is also planning a “one-stop shop” International House for newly arrived international residents to get themselves set up. “I want people to be able to get a digital work permit in 15 minutes,” says König Jerlmyr. “We want to give people fantastic opportunities from the beginning.”

A support programme specifically for the spouses and partners of people moving for work is planned, as well as a conference focused on international talent – both those already in Stockholm and people abroad. 

As always in Stockholm, there's lots to reflect on as one year closes and another begins – and even more to focus on in terms of future impact.

Read more about Stockholm's status as a talent hub – and follow these links for the city's Talent Guide and Entrepreneur's Guide





From Venice to Mont Blanc, how is the climate crisis affecting Italy?

The impact of global heating that scientists have been warning about for years is here, according to a United Nations report. From more heatwaves to rising sea levels that threaten coastal cities like Venice, here's how it will affect Italy.

From Venice to Mont Blanc, how is the climate crisis affecting Italy?

“Widespread, rapid and intensifying” is the headline of a study by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Scientists have observed changes in the climate across the entire Earth, across every region – a phenomenon that is being felt strongly in Italy as wildfires and blistering heatwaves sweep the country, with 17 cities on red warning weather alerts this weekend.

The Italian side of the Mont Blanc massif is also currently at melting point and could collapse, threatening the village below, while the heat in Sicily is set to break European records with a scorching 48.8 degrees C reported near Syracuse on Wednesday.

Many of the changes observed in the climate are unprecedented in thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of years, revealed the report by the United Nations body for assessing climate change.

Some of the developments already happening, such as rising sea levels, are said to be irreversible over hundreds to thousands of years.

Scientists have said that it is already too late to do anything about some of the climate change witnessed in parts of the world and that global temperatures could rise by 1.5 degrees this century.

The report, which three Italian academics contributed to, projects that in the coming decades climate changes will increase in all regions.

If 1.5 degrees C of global warming is reached, there will be increased heatwaves, longer warm seasons and shorter cold seasons.

At 2 degrees C of global warming, heat extremes would reach critical levels for agriculture and health more often, the report showed.


“An alarming picture emerges from the latest UN report on climate. It is an issue that concerns all of us and every aspect of our lives,” wrote Italy’s foreign minister Luigi Di Maio on Facebook.

Rising temperatures aren’t the only major concern. Climate change is creating shifts in wetness and dryness, winds, snow and ice, coastal areas and oceans, according to the findings.

In Europe, regardless of future levels of global warming, temperatures will rise in all European areas “at a rate exceeding global mean temperature changes,” the report found.

In the Mediterranean region, scientists have observed an increase in droughts and project an increase in aridity and fire weather conditions at global warming of 2 degrees C and above.

By the middle of the century, more extreme weather temperatures are expected, along with more droughts and less snow and wind.

Coastal areas are expected to witness continued sea-level rises throughout the 21st century, which could lead to more frequent and severe flooding and coastal erosion. Extreme sea-level events that used to occur once every 100 years could happen every year by the end of this century, scientists warned.

READ ALSO: World Ocean Day: What is Italy doing to protect its seas?

Environmental protesters from the “No Grandi Navi” group demonstrate against the presence of cruise ships in Venice’s lagoon. Photo: MARCO SABADIN/AFP

Based on the IPCC’s report, NASA has created a sea level change tool to see how rising ocean levels would affect different parts of the world.

If no additional climate policies are adopted, Venice could experience an increase in sea levels by as much as 0.87 metres by the end of the century.

Even if global warming levels don’t exceed 1.5 degrees C by 2100 (compared to temperatures in the 1850-1900 period) – and if net zero emissions are achieved by the middle of the century, sea levels around Venice are expected to rise by 3.2mm per year.

That makes an increase of 0.41 metres by the end of the century, as the minimum.

These are devastating statistics for a city already under environmental threat – with the city narrowly avoiding being put on the Unesco endangered list after Italy recently moved to ban large cruise ships from sailing into the city centre

ANALYSIS: Is Venice really banning cruise ships from the lagoon at last?

Other parts of Italy are also under similar levels of danger from rising sea levels, with Cagliari in Sardinia forecast to experience an increase of 0.88 metres by 2100 if no climate change measures are made.

“This report is a reality check,” said IPCC co-chair Valérie Masson-Delmotte.

Rising temperatures have led to more wildfires in Italy this summer. Photo: MASSIMO LOCCI/AFP

“It has been clear for decades that the Earth’s climate is changing, and the role of human influence on the climate system is undisputed,” she added.

Greenhouse gas emissions from human activities are responsible for about 1.1 degrees of warming compared to the period 1850-1900, the report revealed.

“The evidence is clear that carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main driver of climate change, even as other greenhouse gases and air pollutants also affect the climate,” stated the report.

The report also shows that human actions can still determine the Earth’s climate in the future for the better.

“We now have a much clearer picture of the past, present and future climate, which is essential for understanding where we are headed, what can be done, and how we can prepare,” she added.

READ ALSO: Climate campaigners sue Italian government for failing to tackle climate crisis

Scientists on Italy’s side of the Mont Blanc massif are constantly monitoring a melting glacier, where the risk of collapse due to rising temperatures threatens the valley below. Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

What is Italy doing to fight climate change?

Italy is already facing extreme climate change events – it ranked first in the European Union for the number of major fires in 2021, according to the EU Commission.

It is also lagging behind in the objectives of the Recovery and Resilience Plan and much more needs to be done, according to Italian environmental group Legambiente.

Campaigners criticised the 750-billion-euro pandemic Recovery Fund, which included the aim of Italy becoming “carbon free” by 2050, for not being ambitious enough.

However, the government is preparing to appoint a representative by September to tackle the problems posed by climate change.

“We need to give an effective response, without wasting time. This is why we have decided to provide our country with a strategic figure in this field, namely the special envoy for climate change, as has already been done by the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany,” stated Di Maio.

This person will be in charge “following the negotiations and representing Italy at all international tables,” he added.

READ ALSO: Italy postpones plastic tax again due to Covid-19 pandemic

Experts have called for immediate action with faster timelines: the goal of climate neutrality, set for 2050, should be brought forward, stated former environment minister Edo Ronchi, who has called on Italy to adopt “a law to protect the climate”.

“Climate change is already affecting every region on Earth, in multiple ways. The changes we experience will increase with additional warming,” said IPCC co-chair Panmao Zhai.

“Stabilising the climate will require strong, rapid, and sustained reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and reaching net zero CO2 emissions. Limiting other greenhouse gases and air pollutants, especially methane, could have benefits both for health and the climate,” he added.