Open Access Government looks at how Sweden is aiming to become a sustainable nation, highlighting the government’s key environmental priorities
Sweden has gone through something of a recycling revolution in the past decade. More than 99% of all household waste is recycled in one way or another – compared to only 38% in 1975. As the country aims to become a sustainable nation, recycling stations are set up no more than 300 metres away from any residential area.
Recycling is just one area where Sweden is going green, but the country is aiming to do more. The Swedish Government recently unveiled their priorities to ensure Sweden takes the lead on sustainability and becomes one of the world’s first fossil-free welfare countries 1.
One of the first priorities for the Ministry for Environment and Energy is more renewable energy. The country’s long-term vision is to have 100% renewable energy. In order to achieve this the government is proposing a “considerable increase in solar investment support to speed up the expansion of solar cell plants.
The government aims to allocate SEK 225 million in 2016 to solar energy, increasing this funding to SEK 1.4 billion by 2019. In between 2017-2019 they plan to increase support to SEK 390 million per year. Solar energy is not the only renewable the Swedish government will be supporting. Sweden plans to invest a total of SEK 50 million in the years 2017-2019, on electricity storage. Half of that investment would be for 2016 alone, with the government’s main aim to establish a national forum for smart electricity grids.
As part of the sustainable revolution, the government aims to increase its investment in environmental technology. This investment will increase by SEK 62 million to “enable environment and climate technology companies to grow”. Over the next 4 years, the government will also invest SEK 3 million per year into sustainable consumption, for which a strategy is currently being developed.
Support is also being given to green vehicles. A fossil-free vehicle fleet is a priority for the government. Through an extension of the fringe benefits tax subsidy, the conditions for environmentally sound cars are being developed. New support is also being introduced for electric buses and the super green car rebate is being reinforced. SEK 100 million is also being set aside by the government during 2016-2017 to promote cycling. The government also aims to invest in an upgrade of the country’s existing railways.
Minister for Climate and the Environment and Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden, Asa Romson believes: “Environmental policy is to work for sustainable solutions everywhere from the board room to the supermarket.”
In statement 2 of government policy, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven highlighted the key areas of focus for environmental policy. He emphasised the global challenges Sweden’s faces and explained that the government will speed up climate adaption.
The Prime Minister also detailed that the transition to a sustainable and climate-smart society will generate jobs. In the statement Lofvan said:
“Sweden will become one of the world’s first fossil-free welfare countries. Emissions will be reduced at the rate necessary for globally sustainable development. The transition must be effective and provide long-term rules. “Trains should be faster than cars and cheaper that air travel. A climate policy framework will be prepared. Sweden will also take a leading role in implementing the new UN Sustainable Development Goals.
“The government wants to take a climate leap that accelerates the transition to a more sustainable society. By taking responsibility for our climate impact in Sweden, we will demonstrate leadership in the global arena.”
The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency works on behalf of the government, and has the task of monitoring, coordinating and evaluating efforts to meet Sweden’s environmental objectives.
The Agency’s vision is for ‘a good living environment for humans and all other living things, now and for future generations’. Their key objective is to ensure that as a society the country takes action now to ensure future generations don’t have the same environmental challenges.
In a recent report 3, the Environmental Protection Agency evaluated the prospects of achieving the environmental quality objectives set by the government. The evaluation is a basis for government policies and will help to accelerate efforts to achieve objectives.
Director-General of the Environmental Protection Agency, Bjorn Widmark says: “Environment is a cross-cutting issue because society and the human being is dependent on ecosystems and many services. In order to achieve environmental goals and ecologically sustainable future requires all sectors of society to contribute. As well as necessary environmental measures in all policy areas.”
The report highlighted 32 priority proposals for the government. These included: coherent policies for sustainable development, governance towards a circular economy and underlying motivations and behaviours, as well as better environmental stewardship. One of the proposals promotes steering towards a circular economy, which the Agency believes is requires to decouple economic growth from environmental degradation.
“A circular economy is based on recycling tanks and is easy to understand and relate to, but for that to happen incentives need to be introduced. For example, increase the amount we reuse or repair, instead of buying new,” says Widmark.
Sweden is clearly a step ahead when it comes to having their environmental goals clearly mapped out. With the COP 21 Climate Change Conference in Paris later this year the Swedish stance could have a clear impact on the conclusions.
“The EU and climate and environment ministers have now adopted a strong negotiating position ahead of the climate summit, with demands for an ambitious process that binds all countries,” says Minister Romson. Sweden clearly means business, watch this space.