Helsingborg (Sweden)

Nestled in natural and historical beauty where the Baltic Sea meets the North Sea, Helsingborg, a mid-sized city of 150,000 residents, prides itself on putting people and planet first.

In response to facing an increasingly ageing population and a steady decrease of tax-payers, Helsingborg launched its “H22 initiative” in 2019. This wide-reaching initiative is, at its core, a major investment in collaborative innovation to transform the municipality into a city-wide test bed for developing sustainable solutions.

Helsingborg firmly believes that collaboration, inviting and supporting experimentation, and being open to innovation, are all key components to building sustainable urban futures. What’s more, the city is not alone in this conviction. In fact, its efforts have led it to be recognised multiple times as the “most environmental city” in Sweden, including in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020.

Sustainability focus: Climate Pioneer

With its aforementioned H22 initiative, Helsingborg has turned its municipality into a living ecosystem for innovative ideas. The city seeks out new local, national and global partnerships, through which it collaborates with citizens, businesses, and academia to position Helsingborg at the forefront of sustainable urban development.

The H22 initiative has already led the city to collaborate with more than 70 national and global businesses and organisations, who have used Helsingborg as a test bed for cutting-edge sustainability solutions. This openness to experimentation and collaboration has already led to the roll-out of a number of sustainability solutions, including:

  • Three Pipes Sewer System – circular magic at RecoLab: Helsingborg’s Oceanhamnen district is the first in the world to test this innovative wastewater system at full scale. A special exhibition demonstrates the system to visitors and creates a meeting place to spread knowledge on water, energy and waste issues.
  • A new biochar plant: where park and garden waste are converted into climate-smart biochar (a bi-product of plant matter with the ability to improve soil quality and concert CO2 for better air quality).
  • Europe’s most modern waste-to-energy plant: With a current efficiency level of 99.8 % renewable or recycled energy in the output, Helsingborg’s modern waste-to-energy plant is using climate change technology  (CCS tech) to achieve carbon-positive district heating.
  • The Port of Helsingborg: Sweden’s second largest container port is testing a new high-tech electric road concept from Swedish company Elonroad. The system charges vehicles from a power strip in the road.

Cities often struggle to support testing and innovation. After all, experimentation also means taking the risk that some experiments may not work. This makes Helsingborg’s embrace of experimentation that much more impressive! To this end, Helsingborg has also chosen to host a 35-day international event to share their learnings with global peers.

This event, called H22 City Expo, will furthermore serve to connect Helsingborg to an ever-broadening community of collaborators. The Expo will take place from 30 May to 3 July. All ICLEI Members are warmly welcome to join, and can find more information at https://www.h22cityexpo.com/.

The need to knows

  • At latest by 2035,  greenhouse gas emissions should be at least 85% lower than in 1990, as specified in Helsingborg’s climate- and energy plan.
  • Helsingborg strives to achieve climate neutrality as early as 2030.
  • The port of Helsingborg will be operated fossil-free as early as 2024.
  • The local initiative “Helsingborgarnas klimatavtal” brings together citizens who want to sign their own personal climate agreements and demand sustainable solutions locally.
  • An extensive rebuilding of roads and bus stops in Helsingborg was finalised in June 2019 to prepare for Helsingborg's express bus, an electric BRT bus (Bus Rapid Transit) running on 100% green electricity. All other buses in Helsingborg are running on locally produced biogas from food waste.
  • As of 2018, Öresund is home to the world’s first high-intensity electric ferry line that connects Sweden and Denmark via Helsingborg and Elsinore. Two passenger ferries running on origin-marked electricity from renewable non-fossil sources carry passengers across the strait.
  • By the year 2027, the district heating plant Filbornaverket aims to be equipped with a CCS system to capture fossil emissions from burnt waste.
  • Helsingborg is building a unique waste separation sewage system in the new district Oceanhamnen, the Three Pipes system. The goal is to recover the wastewater and produce biogas and plant nutrients. Together with a test bed and showroom, the operating facility will be a hub of knowledge where community development of water usage and recovery of nutrients will take major development steps.
  • Helsingborgs parks and nature areas are rising in importance to its citizens and thus need to be developed and maintained to meet both current and future needs. To help, Helsingborg has developed a green structure program taking into account green values and services in the city's development and  an action plan that describes how to do in Helsingborg and which places to prioritize. Visit Helsingborgs map for examples and projects.
  • Helsingborg recreates wetlands, forests and pastures in order to restore biodiversity and ecosystems and to build a resilient city. So far is over 100 wetlands and 300 hectares of forest and pastures and the work continues!


  • Runner-up in iCapital 2020
  • Finalist in Green Capital 2023

What the city has to say

“Creating a sustainable city for the future calls for innovative leadership, enabling new collaborations across all sectors, and engaging citizens in co-creating smart solutions that cater to real everyday needs. Cities are where change needs to happen, and it needs to happen now. It’s vital that innovative ideas are scalable and can be shared with other cities and through networks such as ICLEI. Only then can we achieve the transformation required to ensure a sustainable future for coming generations.”
    – Peter Danielsson, Mayor of Helsingborg

ICLEI and Helsingborg

Helsingborg has been a member of the ICLEI Europe community since 2000. The City of Helsingborg has been active on many fronts. They have, for example, contributed to ICLEI's Sustainable Cities Platform and are part of the MCR2030 Resilience Hub.


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