Uncertain environmental policy

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OPINION The All Party Committee on Environmental Objectives has submitted its final report to the Swedish government. Though this is a broad agreement with clear formulations, it is unfortunately based on wishful thinking and hopes rather than facts and proper documentation, writes Maria Sunér Fleming, Head of Energy and Climate Policy at the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise, who also participated as specialist on the committee.

Maria Sunér Fleming

Maria Sunér Fleming

Foto: Nicklas Mattsson

The All Party Committee on Environmental Objectives has submitted its final report to the Swedish government. The report contains proposals for a comprehensive Swedish climate policy with interim targets set for 2030 and 2040 supplementing the overall objectives for 2045 proposed in the the previously submitted Interim report.

Science has clearly shown the serious impacts relating to climate issues. This demands all-encompassing global policies to reduce GHG emissions at a faster pace, instead of focusing only on emissions within Sweden's borders. The Committee has provided a broad comprehensive cross-party approach to Swedish climate policies, which does provide some clarity.

The Committee’s proposals presume that all countries will contribute to the Paris climate agreement from December 2015, and that comparable policy instruments are introduced in important economies. The conclusions state that Swedish climate policy should be pursued while maintaining international competitiveness, and keeping GHG emissions from Sweden from increasing – also certainly positive.

As a small trade-dependent country, Sweden significantly depends on global developments, requiring us to closely track trends in how other countries implement promised action under the Paris agreement. If we fail in this, the country puts itself at risk of having a nationally oriented climate policy that would have significant negative consequences for social prosperity and competitiveness, while being directly counter productive regarding global climate objectives.

The Committee proposes a target for climate policy of 63 per cent reduction from 1990 levels for those portions of the economy that lie outside the EU ETS system for trading emission allowances, Currently Sweden has cut emissions by 27 per cent compared to 1990. The Committee also proposes that the transport sector should be assigned a specific target for 2030 to reduce GHG emissions by 70 per cent compared to 2010.

The Confederation of Swedish Enterprise has analysed these targets finding them highly ambitious and, at times, approaching wishful thinking. This includes significant uncertainty regarding progress up to 2030. Only 14 years remain to that target date and Sweden does not control many of the parameters required to meet these targets. Reaching these targets will also require significant changes outside Sweden’s borders, including swift global-wide technical development regarding transports, new EU requirements for vehicles, and that the Swedish approach to bio-fuels is accepted internationally.

Crucially, the report fails to consider the sizeable benefit the transport sector brings to social development and its positive effects on the economy and for individuals. The report is premised on the proposition that transports are negative – that they only contribute to greater emissions. But, more transports are essentially a good sign. The road, rail, and sea transport system in Sweden ties the country together, providing our links to the world – for goods and people. This system is a prerequisite for producing goods where it is most efficient, which includes environmental considerations. Having a target for ‘reduced transports’ as a climate solution is therefore deeply concerning. Real solutions lie in technological development – as with introducing alternative fuels that reduce GHG emissions from the transport sector – not in reducing the movement of people or products.

Instead of setting a detailed target for the transport sector, the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise advocates a broad zero-vision aiming for zero emissions from the transport sector by 2045, as a long-term goal. The specific target for the industry, as is now proposed in the Committee report will tend to make climate policy suboptimal, adding costs that have little positive impact. Cost efficiency and maximum global environmental benefit demands flexibility, and industry-specific targets limit flexibility. The Committee’s targets are the result of defective basic data and inadequate consequence analyses of the targets. Clearly, a faulty report.

Maria Sunér Fleming, Head of Energy and Climate Policy at the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise.

This article was originally published in Swedish 22 June 2016

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