Emma Wiesner is Sweden’s newest MEP. We asked hera few questions to get to know her a little better and find out her views on issues that lie close to the Swedish business community.
Emma Wiesner succeeded Fredrick Federley of the Centre Party in February this year, and is a member of the Committees on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) and Fisheries (PECH), as well as an alternate member of the Committees on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) and Agriculture and Rural Development (AGRI).
You have a background in the energy and technology industries, and have been politically involved in energy and environmental issues. Your election slogan was ’New Energy for Europe’, and you have said in an interview that you want to work to drive the EU’s energy transition. How concretely do you intend to do that? In addition, how will you work on these issues in your committees, ENVI and ITRE?
– There is no doubt that the EU must reduce its emissions quickly; some 73% of Europe’s energy is still fossil fuel based. Therefore - and as a consequence of the increased (but still not high enough) EU climate ambitions - large parts of the existing climate and energy legislation will need to be tightened. The European Commission will therefore present, in June, revisions to – among others - the EU Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS), the Renewables Directive. There will also be a proposed template for a carbon adjustment mechanism in order to strengthen the competitiveness of European companies..
– I want to help influence these laws, so as to ensure they are both more climate-friendly and are able to strengthen Swedish competitiveness. Sweden and Swedish companies are already pioneers when it comes to climate work, so tougher legislation will help to strengthen Swedish competitiveness and improve Sweden’s opportunities for green exports.
– As a member of ENVI and ITRE committees, which will be largely responsible for developing the Parliament’s positions on these legislative dossiers, I will be able to work hands-on and concretely on these issues. My major goal is to be responsible for one of the files from the Liberal group; I will, however, work intensively on all of these files, of course.
One of the issues where you have been most active is on the EU taxonomy. What are your main concerns about the proposed regulatory framework now on the table from the European Commission?
– Above all, I am concerned about how Swedish forests are viewed and how investments in forests and other parts of the bioeconomy may be affected by this. Although the new proposal is an improvement on the previous one, a number of areas of concern remain. For example it is still not clearly defined whether ongoing forestry would be classified as sustainable or not. This is a big threat for Swedish economy and for Sweden to reach the ambitious climate targets.”
– As far as hydropower is concerned, the new wording, if not perfect, is an improvement. At the same time, however, it is totally unacceptable that the European Commission could still include natural gas in the following framework and therefore could be willing to deem it sustainable under certain conditions. This is the wrong way to go; this is the type of fossil energy that should be phased out.
– The whole process of taxonomy has been marked by a democratic deficit, with a group of experts in the European Commission holding far too much power and entering into an issue in a way that is clearly politicised. This is one of the reasons why this process has been problematic from the outset all the way up to today.
How will you work on the issue of taxonomy in the future?
– The European Parliament can only vote for the proposal as a whole. We are currently analysing the contents in detail and will decide shortly on the way forward. It is important that Europe gets a taxonomy in place, that can foster green investments, but of course this has to be in line with reality.
How do you think the Swedish government has handled the issue from a Swedish perspective?
– Unfortunately, I think that the Swedish government’s handling of this issue throughout the process is less than optimal. It has been obvious for several years that Swedish interests have been under-represented in the taxonomy process. The fact that they are acting now is praiseworthy; however, had they acted earlier, and done so in a more targeted and structured way, we would never have been in this situation. Instead, we find ourselves in panic mode over the risks posed to Swedish renewable energy and forest management.
How do you see nuclear power in relation to the taxonomy? Do you think it should it be classified as sustainable?
– I believe that energy sources that meet the climate and environmental performance set in the taxonomy should be classified as sustainable, excluding those that we already know are not the right way to go. If the peer review of the JRC report shows that nuclear power is sustainable, then it is reasonable to include it in the taxonomy, to also cover those countries that invest in nuclear power.
Speaking of nuclear power, a number of EU countries are planning to expand their nuclear power to reduce their dependence and use of fossil fuels. What are your thoughts on that? What role do you see for nuclear power in Europe’s climate transition?
– A country’s energy mix should not be an EU issue; it is up to each country to decide what is best for them. As an MEP, my role is to ensure that there is a long-term and ambitious regulatory framework that makes it profitable for countries and companies to invest in climate change adaptation. Nuclear power has a role to play as a base load, but ultimately it’s up to each Member State to decide that - not the EU.
Another topical issue is Nord Stream 2. How do you feel about this?
– At a time when we need to increase renewables, an EU country such as Germany should not go ahead with a project like Nord Stream 2. Nord Stream 2 will only increase the EU’s dependence on fossil natural gas and will put us in a worse geopolitical position vis-à-vis Russia. For these reasons, I am against the project; I would rather see the EU become an energy union, where we produce and consume clean energy without emissions.
Coming back to the energy transition, what do you think will be the key for the EU to manage the energy transition?
– The key to managing the energy transition is to work together to build the EU’s electricity grid and to create a long-term and ambitious regulatory framework that favours investment in renewable energy. We should not condemn individual energy sources such as bioenergy because of ideological convictions. It should be about putting an appropriate price on those sources that create a larger share of emissions, having more ambitious targets for renewable energy deployment and having a good business climate that increases competitiveness and investment in climate change adaptation.
How much more electricity than today will a climate-neutral EU require in 2050? How do we bridge that gap?
– It is evident that solving the climate problem will require more electricity, not less. In the in-depth analysis that came with the European Commission’s strategy for 2050, ”A Clean Planet for All” (2018), the baseline scenario is that electricity demand will increase from just over 3400 TWh in 2020 to 4500 TWh in 2050. Some 73% of electricity in that scenario will be renewable; it is mainly wind and solar that are being expanded significantly, while oil and coal are being phased out. At the same time, natural gas will continue to have a major role, which is something I do not want to see. To deliver this scenario, we need exactly what I have been talking about, an ambitious and long-term regulation that encourages investment in renewable and clean energy.
Finally, what are the upcoming, crucial issues that you see coming across your desk in the next year, and which ones do you wish for?
– I want to make a difference in climate policy. This covers a wide range of important issues, such as EU emissions trading, a possible revision of the Renewables Directive, our joint energy projects, Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) or the carbon adjustment mechanism. I am looking forward to creating policies that take the EU across the finishing line for the Paris Agreement. The rules on the energy market are something I am also particularly passionate about.