Yellowknife’s mayor is back from a trip to Luleå, Sweden where she learned how the northern European city compares to the capital of the Northwest Territories.
During her visit to Luleå, Mayor Rebecca Alty and representatives of other northern cities met local leaders and learned about the city’s approach to housing, public transit, waste management, municipal planning and a new, fossil fuel-free steel plant.
“We definitely share a lot of similarities and then a lot of differences,” Alty said.
“Being able to share what’s happening in our communities … was really interesting.”
Luleå, located on the coast of northern Sweden, is home to about 78,000 people, with the number of residents increasing by about 500 every year.
It has a large steel and engineering industry, a growing trade and tourism sector, and is home to creative industries and a university.
Like Yellowknife, it has ice roads in the winter, boating is popular in the summer, and it takes just 10 minutes to travel between locations in the city.
Alty said the Swedish city faces the same challenge recruiting and retaining workers and has found it easier to attract international residents than those living in southern Sweden.
“I think Yellowknife has a lot of the same,” said Alty, “where it’s easier to attract international residents versus sometimes residents from the south, who might have a perception on going to this dark, cold, remote location.”
Luleå’s economy is booming, Alty said, due to cheap, reliable and renewable energy as well as a university that is a hub for research.
Alty was invited on the trip by George Washington University, one of several US universities partnering on a five-year research project about urban sustainability in five circumpolar cities.
Along with Luleå and Yellowknife, researchers with the University of Virginia, George Washington University, University of Alaska Anchorage and the University of Northern Iowa are looking at Fairbanks, Alaska, and Naryan-Mar and Yakutsk in Russia.
The universities were awarded a $4.6-million grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct the project. It will examine links between the cities and how indicators help policymakers in the communities redesign infrastructure in response to pressures from climate change and economic challenges.
Alty said she believes Yellowknife will benefit from the research project, particularly climate change modelling, as the city is expected to be in the top five percent of communities to experience warming in the coming years.