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January 1, 2012

Cities set benchmark for fossil-fuel use

Vaxjo. Now that is an interesting word.

No, it is not a floor polish or a tooth paste. It is the name of a city of 80,000 in south central Sweden (see map) that is frequently called "The Greenest City in Europe."

The background to all of this is that Vaxjo is knowledgeable about climate change and "has the ability to see solutions instead of problems." In 1996, they made a unanimous decision to become a fossil-fuel-free city by 2030 (www.unep.org/cli mateneutral/cities/vaxjo).

In the early 1990s, with a growing awareness of the impact of burning fossil fuels, the city developed an environmental program (revised and approved in 2010).

This states, "Climate change is one of our time's most urgent environmental problems. Mankind's emissions of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide produced when burning fossil fuels, contributes to the climate change. With Vaxjo's efforts to become fossil fuel free, it's taking its global responsibility in terms of reducing its impact on the climate."

When one looks at their initiatives and goals, with the collaboration of its businesses, politicians, organizations and citizens, and compares it to the discourse in the United States, it makes one think we inhabit an opposite but parallel universe.

In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower suggested a program of people-to-people contacts that might lessen the possibility of future conflicts. This concept grew into the Sister Cities International program, and Duluth, Minnesota and Vaxjo decided to partner with each other.

Indeed, in October 2009, Duluth sent a delegation to Vaxjo for an educational "technical visit tour." The "delegation learned about the city's world-renowned sustainable practices, how those practices make an impact on economic development … and how Vaxjo earned the title of 'Greenest City of Europe.'"

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