Johan Edstav is a member of the Swedish Green Party and, at this writing, county council commissioner and chairman of the Uppsala Regional Council. Since late 2016, he is also a national coordinator with the task of identifying municipalities and areas where new housing – or even new towns – can be built.
From his home in Uppsala, Johan Edstav has less than a 20-minute ride to Stockholm Arlanda Airport, which is growing in leaps and bounds. That’s positive but not entirely uncontroversial for a member of the Green Party.
“Sure, there’s a built-in conflict. Air travel involves so many positive things. It gives us an internationalised world, where we can get to know and learn about other cultures. Our understanding grows, and that’s important now when there are so many causes for concern – I think air travel is an important condition for peaceful co-existence. At the same time, climate change is the greatest challenge for us all. The new environmental targets adopted by the Swedish parliament are a positive thing. They’re ambitious, and it means we can’t exclude any industries. Everyone has to do their share – even the air transport industry. The challenge for air travel is to reduce its environmental impact. If it can’t adapt, it will be a dinosaur. I hope that won’t be the case, but rather that it evolves in the right direction,” says Johan Edstav.
THE FUEL ISSUE IS KEY
“If Arlanda is to continue to be an international hub for Sweden, the fuel issue must be resolved. I know that research is being done and that there are airlines looking for sustainable fuel solutions. As social partners, we must also put pressure on. I don’t believe in introducing incentives in the form of laws, restraints and prohibitions – it must be based on economic factors. We’re already leading the way in environmental work, and we should be able to show that we can manage functional air travel that doesn’t cause climate change while playing a part in Europe, within the EU, in order to force the pace and set goals.
“We can’t close Arlanda – that’s impossible. There aren’t that many major airports so close to the city. And Arlanda can continue to grow, but that depends on whether we’re successful in dealing with climate change. The challenge now is to find solutions for the production of environmentally-friendly fuels, without increasing fuel costs. If this cost of fuel rises, other transport modes will take over as a result and we’ll wind up more on the periphery, since those other modes of transport will probably take more time. Business air travel may not be as price-sensitive as you and me, but air travel overall will be affected. I can’t predict future technological solutions. I have political colleagues who’ve tried, and it turns out that it’s difficult, but it’ll take some time before we have electrically-powered aircraft.
“If we use sustainable energy in an efficient way and realise that there will be limits to how much non-fossil fuel we can develop, we have to prioritise the transport modes that have no other alternatives. It may not be difficult to shift to non-fossil fuel in the near future, but if airlines have to compete with land-based vehicles for fuel, it could be a problem.”
THE SITUATION NOW
“It’s all positive that Stockholm and Uppsala are growing together. It’s a good stretch, with railways and plenty of space for housing and other operations. From a Swedish perspective, I think there’s already a lot of construction here, but from a European point of view, we’re sparsely populated.
“I don’t see any problems when it comes to the development of Arlanda. The airport is important from every perspective. It should be possible to phase in the expansion to handle the traffic from Bromma in time, and a fourth runway is needed to handle capacity, but we have to build it. There are major advantages to focusing on a single airport. The environmental impact is not just emissions but also noise. At an airport, we always get zones where nothing can be built for noise or safety reasons, so it’s better to put all air transport in the same place. It doesn’t mean a lower environmental impact, but we have it in only one place,” Johan Edstav continues.
“Arlanda is a workplace with people from many different backgrounds. It’s good to have diversity and mixed workplaces, no matter where you work. As for Arlanda, I think that, above all, it’s access and the opportunities for international contacts that are attractive. That creates interest in setting up operations near, or even at, Arlanda, making it a magnet for companies. In a longer-term perspective, internationalisation facilitates the integration of refugees and others who come to Sweden and helps them in society. It’s vital that we meet this challenge.”
CONCERNING THE REGION AND COLLABORATION
“Things are going well for the region. Stockholm and Uppsala are experiencing sharp growth. That generates jobs and the establishment of businesses. We have good education levels, an internationalised population and good language skills – strengths we must maintain. We’re also skilful in the collaboration between the state and the public and private sector – surveys show this. But we can’t sit back and be satisfied with this. Even more integrated collaboration promotes development. When it comes to finding solutions, different forums are available for dialogue. A good example is the Mälaren Valley Council, which includes the business community, and this can no doubt be improved. We may have an economic boom right now, but it will be more difficult in a recession. Then we must have a collaboration that works.”
IN TEN YEARS, OR IN 2070
“In ten years, Arlanda will still be Sweden’s international hub for travel, especially for eastern Sweden and the Stockholm region. We will have even more international companies, at and in the vicinity of Arlanda and in the region. Arlanda is one of several driving forces that will contribute, not just as an airport.
“In 2070, I think air travel will have grown in importance, but in order to achieve this, we must first have a solution to climate change. Everything depends on that. By then, we’ll have built a great deal and have a more or less urban environment around Arlanda and between Uppsala and Stockholm.
“Here in Uppsala, the university community will continue to be important. The life science sector will have grown even more, and we’ll have significant advances in both medicine and technology. I myself believe that there will be more building and development around the railways. Cars will still be around, but rail capacity will have increased, and the network will be more fine-meshed. Roads won’t disappear, but rail traffic will make a comeback. Obviously, there will be new advances in technology. Think about how, just a few generations ago, people wondered whether it was possible to go faster than ten kilometres an hour. No one could predict then what an impact the railway would have on our industrialisation.
“Mass transit, including air travel, also takes up less space than individual travel. The more urban the environment we get and the more Stockholm and Uppsala grow, then the more we’ll have a metropolitan area that people can move around in, not just to and from Arlanda, or course, but throughout the region. Mass transit is indispensable – we’ll see this develop.”
BORN: 1966 in Halmstad, Sweden, grew up in Norrköping
OCCUPATION: At the time of the interview, county council commissioner. Now appointed by the Swedish government to serve as national coordinator for large-scale housing developments
CURRENTLY: At the time of the interview, chair of the Uppsala Region Council. Now a member of the Mälaren Valley Council, first deputy chair of the Uppsala Local Council, national coordinator for large-scale housing developments
TRAVELS: to London
Travels on his own
“I fly sometimes – it depends on where I’m going – but in principle never domestically, since I prefer to take the train. I try above all to choose transport modes that do not have an environmental impact, but sometimes there are no practical alternatives, at least if you’re travelling long distance.”
“London! I’ve been in a lot of big cities, but I always keep coming back to London. It’s a dynamic, interesting city, and there’s so incredibly much to see. The only thing is that your feet get pretty tired.”
Biofuel is renewable fuel produced from living organisms, so-called biomass. Biofuel can mostly be considered carbon-neutral since the carbon dioxide released when the fuel is used is part of the natural carbon cycle. Biofuel can be used in modern aircraft engines and thus sharply reduce carbon dioxide emissions. SAS, Norwegian Air Shuttle, BRA and KLM have carried out such flights and have announced moves to invest in sustainable fuel. Arlanda, Los Angeles International Airport, Oslo Airport and Karlstad Airport are the only airports today that can regularly supply biofuel. The volumes produced are small, and the price is much higher than for conventional fuel. Sweden’s Fly Green Fund works to increase demand and lay the foundation for large-scale production, based on Nordic raw materials. The vision is fossil-free domestic air travel by 2030.