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Åsa Romson is no longer a government minister, Minister for Climate and the Environment, Deputy Prime Minister
Sweden’s initiative challenges world to go fossil-free
The world can tackle climate change, but time is short. Sweden aims to be one of the world’s first fossil-free welfare nations. With our initiative Fossil-free Sweden, we now challenge other countries to do likewise.
Global warming threatens the very foundation of human wellbeing. Drought, flooding and a less predictable climate hit both agriculture and fisheries hard, thereby threatening access to food for the world’s growing population. Global economic growth is under threat, along with years of work to eradicate poverty.
We believe there is still time to act. If the world phases out the use of fossil energy quickly in favour of renewables considerable ground will be gained, not only in terms of the climate. A phase-out would lead to greater energy security, better health and improved quality of life. These are co-benefits that have convinced mayors around the world to collaborate and redirect their strategies.
Climate action makes good business sense. In areas such as energy, urban development, agriculture and land use, the world needs to invest $90tn over the next 15 years regardless of climate change. At the same time, these sectors are crucial for the global low carbon transition. Greening investments in these sectors would cost less than 5% extra – an increase that can be offset via the co-benefit of reduced fuel consumption alone, according to the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.
Then there are all of the other co-benefits to consider and, not least, the enormous estimated global costs of inaction in the face of climate change.
Sweden has positive experience of combining emissions reductions with an improved economy and welfare. For many years we have used effective policy levers that put a price on carbon, using a carbon dioxide tax accompanied by political leadership that supports the emergence of climate-smart innovations. This has resulted in reduced emissions and market-based solutions while our economy has grown. But we are not done yet.
Sweden recently announced that we will become one of the world’s first fossil-free welfare nations. With the initiative Fossil-free Sweden we are now encouraging others to accept the challenge to see who can go fossil-free first. There are three simple reasons why we should race towards this goal:
1. It is our responsibility
Rich countries have a duty to take the lead in combating climate change, as established in the UN Convention on Climate Change. Quite simply, some countries are in a more favourable position, and should therefore take a greater share of the responsibility for reducing emissions. In this way, we will do our part to ensure a good future for ourselves, our children and future generations on this planet.
2. It makes good economic sense
We want Swedish companies to develop the climate-smart solutions that the world is demanding. We must therefore be proactive early-adopters, and not be restrained by yesterday’s technology. The fact that financial market actors have now started to move their investments away from fossil energy is an expression of the same logic.
Going green also creates new jobs. According to a recent report from the Club of Rome, a transition to a renewable and resource-efficient society could potentially generate 100 000 new jobs in Sweden alone.
3. To show that it is possible
No one country is responsible for such a large proportion of emissions that it alone determines the world’s success or failure on the climate issue. But by leading by example and proving that reduced emissions can be achieved in a way that promotes economic development, individual actors can have an impact on a global scale.
Is this what business wants? The idea of a fossil-free society is embraced by many. There are more and more initiatives around the world in which cities, businesses and organisations are replacing fossil energy with renewables. In Sweden, the business sector, local authorities and other stakeholders are coming together through the Fossil-free Sweden initiative and jointly issuing a challenge to their counterparts around the world.
Swedish companies including ABB, IKEA, H&M and Ericsson and Sweden’s major cities are supporting the initiative – and themselves contributing to reduced emissions. Fuel company Preem, which operates petrol stations throughout Sweden, has decided to only offer renewable fuels at its pumps by 2030. The Fourth Swedish National Pension Fund will invest its entire SEK 200 billion portfolio in low-carbon strategies within five years. Several Swedish towns and cities have decided to go completely fossil-free, and some of them aim to achieve this goal as early as 2030.
The world is about to gather for the UN Climate Conference. Sweden will be there to enter into an ambitious, fair and durable agreement that binds all countries to further action. We carry with us broad engagement from business and civil society, showing that a fossil-free world is not only necessary, but also sought-after. We hope that many will take us up on our challenge.
Åsa Romson, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Climate and the Environment, Sweden.