State of the Environment

The state of the environment and changes in it are documented by the Swedish environmental monitoring system. The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency is responsible for national environmental monitoring and follows up the state of the environment in Sweden.

Trends in the development of the environmental situation are positive in many areas. For example the acidification of Swedish lakes, watercourses and forest land is declining. This decline in acidification is a good example of the positive effects of international agreements and purposeful environmental efforts. Sulphur and nitrogen fallout has been reduced. However, acidifying fallout must decline further to reach a level that does not damage land and water.

The major challenges in the environment area include limiting climate impact, dealing with marine eutrophication and stopping the loss of biological diversity.

Climate change

By the 2080s, the mean temperature in Sweden is expected to rise by 3-5ºC as a result of climate change. At the same time, precipitation will increase, particularly in winter. There will be a considerably greater risk of flooding, landslides and avalanches.

Swedish greenhouse gas emissions have declined by more than 9 per cent since 1990. These emissions reductions occurred at the same time as GDP increased by some 48 per cent (1990-2007) - which shows that the link between greenhouse gas emissions and economic growth has been broken. In 2007, total greenhouse gas emissions amounted to 65.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents. Since 1999, emissions have annually been lower than the 1990 level.

Sweden's national emissions are low, whether calculated per person or per unit of GDP, compared with most other developed countries. These relatively low emissions are largely due to the use of hydroelectric and nuclear power in electricity production and a significant use of biofuels. This development can also be explained by an active climate and energy policy.

Most of the greenhouse gas emissions in Sweden come from transport and industry (including emissions from refineries, coke oven plants and gas flaring). Emissions from electricity and heating production and from the heating of housing and premises are very small compared with equivalent emissions in other developed countries and in rapidly growing developing countries.

Marine environment

Outside Sweden's coasts, over 6 per cent of the territorial sea and 3.5 per cent of the exclusive economic zone are protected. Many marine areas are included in the Natura 2000 network.

Eutrophication, heavy fishing pressure and the emission of pollutants have had a major impact on the seas. A far too large, efficient fishing fleet is a drain on a finite resource. Illicit cod fishing also takes place, estimated at 10 per cent of reported Swedish catches. Although emissions of the eutrophying substances nitrogen and phosphorus have declined, there is no noticeable change in the marine environment. The vast majority of emissions come from other countries, such as the nitrogen emissions of the international shipping industry. Swedish emissions of phosphorus and nitrogen primarily come from sewage and industries, and diffuse leakage from arable land. A large proportion of nitrogen also comes from transport, combustion and animal husbandry. Concentrations of persistent organic environmental pollutants in fatty fish are still higher than the threshold for the sale of fish for consumption that the EU has adopted, despite the fact that emissions have declined. Concentrations vary between different areas in the Baltic Sea and also tend to fluctuate with the season and differences in water temperature.

Biological diversity

Sweden has a long history of nature conservation. We were the first country in Europe to create national parks. The first 10 national parks were decided by Parliament in 1909 along with the first law concerning the protection of nature. Sweden's network of Natura 2000 areas is now almost complete, under the requirements of the EU habitat and species directives.

Despite significantly increased initiatives, the loss of species, natural habitats and ecosystem services continues to increase. A greater burden on the environment because of the intensive exploitation of the landscape by human beings has led to impacts on crucial environments, and it is hard to reverse this trend. One example of this is farming land, parts of which are used increasingly intensively, while others become overgrown or are planted with forest. Several ordinary bird species in farming land have declined in number by 40 per cent since 1975. The majority of threatened species live in forest or farming landscapes, but the marine environment is also severely affected in terms of the number of species.

Almost 2000 foreign species have been reported in Sweden. Around 8 per cent are regarded as invasive and 2.5 per cent as potentially invasive. These foreign species are so predominant that they threaten other species, cause socio-economic damage or threaten people's health. The annual costs of twelve invasive foreign species in Sweden have been estimated at SEK 1.1-4.5 billion.

There are also some instances of nature conservation efforts having positive effects on biological diversity in lakes, watercourses and certain wetlands. Measures that have contributed to this include reductions in emissions of acidifying substances and the establishment of new wetlands.

The large predators are increasing in number in Sweden after having been nearly extinct in the middle of the last century. They mainly inhabit woods and mountains and are spreading southwards. The country is also host to a vigorous moose population. The most spectacular animals in the archipelagos are seals and white-tailed eagles, both of which are recovering after a serious decline due to pollution in the 1960s.

Read more about the state of the environment in Sweden via the links under external links.