The southern Swedish town of Vaexjoe, a world leader in environmental protection, is attracting many international delegations to see the measures it has implemented.
The following are some examples of the initiatives Vaexjoe has introduced to help fight climate change:
- New apartment buildings constructed entirely out of wood:
On the shores of Lake Vaexjoe, a residential neighbourhood of apartment buildings made entirely out of wood is being constructed. Two eight-storey buildings are already completed, and a third is under construction. The entire project, called Vaelle Broar and comprising a total of 1,200 apartments, is expected to be finished within 10 to 15 years.
Project officials hope to show that wood, a vast resource in Sweden, is the construction material of the future, and is good for the environment since no energy is needed to produce wood as opposed to energy-consuming materials like concrete or steel.
"It's the only renewable material we have," says Hans Andren, one of the architects, adding that wood absorbs carbon dioxide, which conrete does not.
The floors, walls, ceilings, everything including the elevator is made of wood in Vaelle Broar. To combat the risk of fires, the apartments have been equipped with extensive sprinkler systems.
- Biofuels used to heat homes:
Across the lake the smokestacks from the heating plant rise up from the ground, heating the homes of 50,000 of the 80,000 residents. The plant runs 98.7 percent on wood products.
"These are wood chips from the forest or sawmills, from bark and branches," explains Lars Ehrlen, an official at the plant's energy department.
Until 1979, the Sandvik plant was run exclusively on oil. But in 1980, after the second international oil crisis showed how important it was to develop an independent energy source, biofuels were introduced and have gained ground since.
- Research on second-generation biofuels:
At Vaexjoe University, in northern Europe's biggest wood building, research is underway on the second generation of biofuels.
As part of a European cooperation project, researchers are working to develop DME (dimethyl ether, a colourless gaseous ether).
Made from biomass, or logging residue in the forest such as branches, tops and stumps, this biofuel is "the most efficient alternative when using logging residues as raw material," according to professor Anders Baudin.
Baudin says it will be possible to produce DME on a large scale (400,000 tonnes per year) within 10 years. He hopes that by then, Vaexjoe's entire public transport system will run on DME and all private cars will be electric.
DME "is not the solution, but it's part of it," he says.