Speech by the Minister for the Environment Lena Ek, for internationell ambassadors, Stockholm 19 jan 2012

Dear Ambassadors, your Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure for me to appear here today in front of you all, as Sweden's Minister for the Environment.

After 3 months in office, I begin to feel I've reached cruising altitude in this role. And even if clear skies must be the goal for you on this job, you must be prepared for turbulent skies and strong head wind at times.

Even so, I do know that international contacts will be crucial for me if I am to succeed my political goals, and rest assured that me and my staff will always have space in our calendars for meetings with your governments, in Stockholm and abroad.

Right now, the world is facing several serious global challenges

  • A growing population '- the world's population will grow to almost 9 billion people by 2050
  • The human impact on climate has to be radically reduced - the transition to a society independent of fossil fuels must accelerate.
  • We must protect our Earth's natural resources - the depletion of the Earth's ecosystems must be curbed.

Today, I would like to bring forward a few issues where Sweden is taking action - and I look forward to a dialogue with you all on these issues.

Climate change

The seventeenth Meeting of the Parties under the Climate Convention in Durban was what we hoped for in terms of the process. We now have a way forward towards a legally binding outcome.

EU played a key role in Durban, not least due to our openness to be part of a continued Kyoto protocol, as well as our demands for higher ambitions for emissions reductions. EU successfully bridged some gaps needed to develop the continued mandate.

For the sake of the climate there is more to be desired. We concerned by the fact that we could not in Durban get further in discussions regarding emission reductions, the very core of climate negotiations. Global emissions need to peak 2015-2020 and in the coming years we need to find a way to increase our collective efforts. Strong political leadership is needed to continue to achieve the goal of limiting temperature increase to 1.5 or 2 degrees.

Sweden will vigorously push for the EU to maintain and pursue its important role with the utmost dedication. Europe, like Sweden, must continue to take the lead in the race to establish a climate-friendly society. Above all it is, like Sweden and the EU have long argued, economically rational to carry out the transition as early as possible. Waiting will not only be disastrous for the climate but also result in increased costs to society.

Sweden has showed leadership in the past and we are now taking further steps to continue on that path. The Swedish Parliament's goals of 40 percent reduction by 2020 and of having no net-emissions by 2050, places us in the front row. However, we want above all, to find a way together with other parties to collectively increase the ambitions.

In this context I would like to highlight the importance of phasing-out of environmentally harmful subsidies. We agreed at the UNCBD-negotiations in Nagoya to phase out harmful subsidies for biodiversity. The next step should be to agree upon a clear and ambitions target for a responsible phase out of fossil fuel subsidies at the Rio+20 meeting.

I trust you have seen the estimates of the amounts spent on subsidising fossil fuels, on global level around 500-700 billion dollars a year. It is a true irony that we, at the same time, fight about how to come up with funding for the 100 billion dollars a year in 2020 to finance climate efforts in developing countries.

Short lived-climate forcers

UNEP has shown that action to reduce the SLCF:s could

  • avoid 2.4 million premature deaths annually from outdoor air pollution and reduce 1,6 million annual deaths from indoor air pollution
  • increase the yields of four major food crops with 32 million tonnes a year
  • reduce warming by about half a degree in the coming decades even more in the Arctic.

Sweden is taking action to reduce SLCF at home, within the Arctic Council and through the Convention on Long-range and transboundary air pollutants. In addition we are together with a few other countries setting up a global initiative aiming to spur local and regional action to reduce short lived climate forcers, which we will launch in the run-up to UNEP:s governing council meeting in February.

Biodiversity

Strategic resource mobilization will be a key issue at the CBD COP 11 in India this autumn. Sweden is keen to facilitate discussions. Our common goal for the Hyderabad conference should be to make sure that the positive spirit from Nagoya lives on, and that differences of opinion on how to meet the need for financial resources can be reconciled. The true cost of loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services must be made clearly visible. This will motivate adequate efforts to meet the challenge of biodiversity loss.

Chemicals

Management of chemicals and waste has been a priority for Sweden for many years. The activities/solutions needed to achieve the Swedish environmental quality objective environment include mainly measures outside Sweden as well as the EU's borders.

We seek a chemicals policy that

  • promote greater knowledge of chemicals on health and environmental hazards
  • promote increased information about the presence of hazardous substances
  • gradually phases out hazardous substances are and replace these with alternative substances or techniques.

Among other things we stress that further measures should be taken to achieve the 2020 targets for the safe handling of chemicals including through strengthened implementation. We push for the addition of new substances to existing conventions and strict limits on mercury in products and processes in a new convention on mercury. We would preferably see a total ban.

RIO+20

A process that began in Stockholm in 1972 is now being followed up by the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, also known as Rio+20 in June. I see this as an opportunity for Sweden together with Brazil and South Africa, to take further the legacy from Stockholm 1972, Rio de Janeiro 1992 and Johannesburg 2002.

Sweden's ambition is that the conference in Rio will deliver renewed and stronger political support for sustainable development on a global level. A strengthened political commitment to sustainable development is to be translated into concrete goals that engage people, governments, companies, organisations and the international community in sustainable development.

During Rio+20, a process should be introduced to define sustainable development goals. These goals should build on already existing goals within relevant areas and complement or update the Millennium Development Goals by including the three dimensions of sustainable development and being applicable to all countries.
Sweden considers that all three dimensions of sustainable development - economic, social and environmental - must be addressed as integrated dimensions at the conference. Rio+20 should result in clear political commitments on how the world can best achieve sustainable development. It is therefore highly important that the conference identifies areas in which further progress must be made and that this be clearly formulated.

Sweden's ambition for the conference's green economy' theme is to promote sustainable development to address social, economic, and environmental and climate-related challenges. Stronger international cooperation is crucial to pursuing human development that occurs within the limits of the global state of the environment. Our ambition for the conference's second theme - the institutional issues - is a strengthened framework in which the three dimensions of sustainable development are integrated at all levels.

Under the theme on green economy Sweden has identified the following areas, in which there is special reason to address challenges and opportunities for concrete results that should be reflected in the final documents from the Rio conference:

  • Sustainable urbanisation
  • Market development: the role of the business sector, sustainable agriculture and trade
  • Correct pricing and the value of ecosystem services
  • Access to and sustainable use of energy and water

Furthermore, Sweden's view is that Rio+20 must also be based on young people's outlook and proposed solutions and approaches being used to achieve sustainable development. Civil society also has a key role in making Rio+20 a successful conference, but also in ensuring a successful follow-up of the conclusions from Rio+20.

STOCKHOLM +40

In 2012 it is 40 years since the first UN Conference on the Human Environment was held here, in Stockholm. It was the first conference of its kind. The conference did set the agenda for the global environmental and climate negotiations that has followed. In commemoration of this conference and with a view of promoting dialogue and exchange between central and local decision-makers, young people, the business sector, civil society (especially environment and aid-oriented organisations) and researchers, the Swedish Government will organise 'Stockholm +40 - Partnership Forum for Sustainable Development' on 23-25 April, 2012.
I will host the event together with my colleague Gunilla Carlsson, the Swedish Minister for International Development Cooperation. And I know that several of you will greet members of your governments here in Stockholm that week, which I very much look forward to.
One aim of the Stockholm +40 event is to foster innovative ideas and creative processes and to create platforms for dialogue between the identified targets groups, in three specific areas:

  • Sustainable Innovations
  • Sustainable Production
  • Sustainable Lifestyles

As part of the Stockholm +40 event, we will also host a ministerial dialogue with a mix of ministers from North and South, as well as between environment and development ministers.

The themes for the Stockholm +40 events fit especially well into the theme of Rio +20 on 'Green Economy'. It is our ambition that Stockholm +40 will give an important input to the Rio +20 conference and contribute to an ambitious outcome of the Rio +20 conference. [More information about the Stockholm +40 event is available on the Swedish Government website (www.sweden.gov.se/stockholm+40).]

It may be wrong to say this in a room full of ambassadors, but: Even if diplomacy and international relations are key to successful environmental policies, we all (and especially myself as a politician) must not forget the need to give attention to the environmental efforts by people in their daily lives.

My ambition is that it should be simple, cheap and fun to live in an environmentally friendly way, to do the right thing for the climate and to replace hazardous substances. To get there, we need to focus on possibilities and potential for development. An offensive environmental policy package is truly good for competitiveness- in Sweden and all forerunner countries over the world.

Thank you!