Sweden’s Climate Law: The World’s Most Ambitious?

Article first published in Swedish Press, February 2018

On January the first, the Swedish climate law, climate policy framework and climate targets entered into force. According to the think tank Fores, they are the world’s most ambitious. Here’s why – and what it means to Sweden, to the world, and to the climate!

The target: Net zero

When the current Swedish government was installed in 2014, it promised that Sweden is to become ”one of the world’s first fossil free welfare states”. Since then, the government has informally tightened the target to ”the world’s first fossil free state”, which is easier to measure but more difficult to achieve.

In line with this ambition, the government launched a commission to develop Sweden’s long term climate targets. Seven of the eight parties in the parliament agreed to targets that were turned into law as we celebrated new year’s eve:

By 2030, climate impact in the transport sector should decrease by 70 % compared to 2010. By the same year, the overall climate impact is to be reduced by 63 percent, compared to 1990, excluding sectors covered by the European Union’s Emission Trading System.

By 2045 Sweden’s climate impact is be net zero, to be understood as 85 percent emissions reduction compared to 1990. The remainder is to be achieved by increasing the buffering, primarily in the forest sector, and by reducing emissions in other countries, on Sweden’s account.

The legislation states that all future Swedish governments are required to ensure that the targets are met, with a permanent climate committee that will evaluate current policies.

Most ambitious?

The United Nations Paris agreement states that every negotiating party must have a Nationally Determined Contributions for emissions reductions. By studying these , think tanks such as Fores find that the Swedish targets are the most ambitious. Other countries may have more aggressive policies for limited sectors, such as Norway’s strong focus on electric vehicles or Denmark’s biking, but in terms of overall emissions reductions, no one is as ambitious as the Swedes.

Credible?

The climate targets were developed in close co-operation with the Swedish business community, which over the years has come to the conclusion that the home market, while small, may serve as testing ground for new solutions if targets are strong enough and sufficiently relevant to other countries. But the main reason for industry’s backing is the seven parties approval, which gives a guaranteed long term trajectory all the way up to 2045. This is a rare thing in any political context, and gives Swedish industry a competitive advantage compared to counterparts in other countries where legislation and policy is less
predictable.

Relevance?

Since the Paris agreement was ratified, there has been a scramble for climate leadership, particularly since the US under president Trump bowed out and left room for others. This is of interest for Swedish businesses, but Sweden’s ambitions also mean that other countries, municipalities businesses and communities around the world will increasingly turn to Sweden for inspiration.

Mattias Goldmann