Swedish elections: The climate can solve the political climate

In the recent Swedish elections, every single one of the eight parties congratulated itself as one of the winners, but in reality tough and long negotiations remain until a government is in place – and if that government can’t get a budget in place, new elections might happen already this year. One solution: To build on the climate and energy agreements.

Whilst the international media has mostly portrayed the xenophobic Sweden Democrats as this election’s winner, with just over 17 % of the votes it performed well below most polls and expectations, and remains the third largest party in parliament. And while that percentage is enough to keep any of the previous coalitions from gaining a majority of the seats in Parliament, it also means that the other seven parties are now reaching out to try and find ways to govern without the need of the Sweden Democrat’s support.

In the days just after the election, both sides insist that they have the right to form the government, and that the other side should yield and – as a whole or in parts – support such a minority government or even take part in it. Later on, new coalitions might well be formed, but no matter who will govern, it is clear that there will be a shift of power from a weakened
government to the Parliament. If this is not well handled, a lot of what has hitherto been taken for granted in terms of stability and predictability, may soon be a thing of the past.

According to the 2030-secretariat, where all the parties of the Parliament except for the Swedish Democrats regularly meet for informal consultations and discussions, a way forward could be to build on the successful agreements across the aisle that were reached in the previous four-year period. All in all, more than 20 such broad agreements were signed, in
areas from pensions to military defense, but many of them are vague framework agreements that mainly push the issue forward.

The main exception is the climate agreement. Here, every political party except for the Swedish Democrats, whom had often veered towards climate skepticism, have agreed on the emissions targets for 2030 – a fossil independent transport sector with a 70 percent emissions reduction compared to 2010 – and for 2045, when Sweden is to be net neutral in
its climate impact. This is by far the most ambitious target of the world – we know this since the UN Paris Agreement requires that every country puts forward its climate targets, for ease of comparison.

When new political coalitions need to be built, this is the agreement to start from. Not only does it include every party that wants to ensure that the Swedish Democrats are left without any real policy influence, it also shows true leadership just when it is needed the most. It also withstood the election test; even though several of the parties where at times desperate to find something that would attract more voters, not even one of them attacked or questioned the climate legislation. Furthermore, while the Green party finished last in the elections and lost the most in proportional terms, combating climate change was the single issue that rose the fastest when voters were asked what issues they cared the most about, even finishing as the number one issue in the Swedish daily Expressen’s poll. This is no doubt due to the summer’s record heat and drought, but no matter the reason – it still means that in areas that matter to the voters, the seven parties found a Yes, We Can the Swedish way. Not only will Swedish politics by leading the way potentially save the climate, but the climate may also be the savior of Swedish politics.

Mattias Goldmann