A climate policy framework and a climate and clean air strategy for Sweden

Sweden has the ambition of being a global role model on climate and air quality and a leading country in work to realise the ambitious goals of the Paris Agreement. In 2015 and in early 2016 the Cross-Party Committee on Environmental Objectives worked in line with its mandate from the Government to develop proposals capable of strengthening Sweden’s work on climate and clean air. The seven political parties on the Committee, equivalent to almost 90 per cent of the votes in the Riksdag, are completely united behind the proposals for a climate policy framework and a Swedish clean air strategy.

The main proposal of the Committee is that a clear climate policy framework be drawn up and that parts of this framework be regulated by law. It is proposed that the framework comprises:

  • a long-term climate goal which means that by 2045 at the latest Sweden will have no net emissions of greenhouse gases, after which negative emissions will be attained,
  • an emission pathway with intermediate targets,
  • forms for the Government's planning and follow-up of climate policy,
  • periodic reports to the Riksdag, annually and every four years, and
  • a climate policy council tasked with examining the implemented policy on an ongoing basis and assessing whether as a whole it is compatible with the national climate objectives.

In more precise terms, the long-term climate goal means that emissions from activities on Swedish territory will be cut by at least 85 per cent compared with emissions in 1990. To achieve net zero emissions, flexibility measures can be included. Such measures refer to reductions in emissions outside Sweden and/or as a result of increased carbon dioxide uptake in forests and land, plus bio-energy with carbon capture and storage (bio-CCS). The impact of flexibility measures must be calculated in line with applicable international regulations. With a reduction in emissions of at least 85 per cent, it is estimated that Swedish emissions will come in at just under one tonne per capita in 2045.

The Cross-Party Committee on Environmental Objectives proposes that the following intermediate targets be introduced for emissions outside the EU Emissions Trading System (known as the non-trading sector):

By 2030, emissions should be at least 63 per cent lower than emissions in 1990. A maximum of 8 percentage points of the reduction in emissions may be achieved through flexibility measures.By 2040, emissions should be at least 75 per cent lower than emissions in 1990. A maximum of 2 percentage points of the reduction in emissions may be achieved through flexibility measures.

Development in the transport sector is vital for attaining the targets

The Committee also proposes an emissions target for domestic transport (not including domestic air travel) which means a reduction in emissions from this sector of at least 70 per cent by 2030 compared with 2010.

This development in the transport sector is vital if emissions in the non-trading sector are to fall rapidly and sufficiently. Attaining the goal in the transport sector requires a combination of rapid electrification primarily of passenger transport, a major expansion in renewable fuels, a significant improvement in the efficiency of goods transport and measures in urban areas to benefit public transport and bicycle and pedestrian traffic. This development demands more stringent EU requirements with complementary national instruments providing long-term and sufficiently forceful rules of play to influence the continued use of vehicles and fuels. Urban planning decisions at a local level are also crucial.

The EU Emissions Trading System needs to be strengthened

About 35 per cent of Swedish greenhouse gas emissions are currently included in the EU Emissions Trading System. The Committee considers that the trading system needs to be strengthened but that measures within it alone are insufficient to attain the long-term climate objective. The Committee therefore also presents proposals concerning extended collaboration between the business sector and the State as an important part of the strategy to reduce emissions from the iron and steel industry, among others. The Committee also highlights the importance of measures for further development of a bio-based economy, in which new bio-based products from forests, agriculture or aquaculture can replace fossil-based products.

Intermediate targets and a clean air strategy

The report also contains proposals for a cohesive strategy for a Swedish clean air policy. There are clear synergies between climate policy and clean air policy, and an ambitious climate policy will lead to reduced emissions of air pollutants and improved air quality. Despite this, additional initiatives are needed at both national and local level if Sweden is to be able to attain the air quality-related environmental objectives and meet its international undertakings. Sweden also needs to continue to work actively in an international context to reduce global air pollution and thus the in-bound transport of air pollution from other countries to Sweden. The Cross-Party Committee on Environmental Objectives proposes four new intermediate targets with associated instruments and measures as follows:

  • Limited emissions from road traffic in urban areas where the proportion of journeys undertaken by cyclists or pedestrians or passenger journeys on public transport is to be at least 25 per cent by 2025.
  • Limited emissions from small-scale wood burning, where emissions are to fall continuously up to 2020, and by 2019 at the latest it is to be clear what level of reductions in emissions is required to attain the environmental quality objective of Clean air.
  • Limited in-bound transport of air pollutants, where Sweden is to have carried out initiatives targeted towards countries east of the EU responsible for sizeable emissions by 2020 and emissions of nitrogen oxides from shipping in the Baltic Sea and North Sea are to be halved by 2025 compared with 2010.
  • Meet the emission undertakings of the National Emission Ceilings Directive in which emissions of nitrogen oxides, sulphur dioxide, volatile organic compounds, ammonia and particles, PM2.5 are to correspond to the indicative targets for 2025 as shown in the revised National Emission Ceilings Directive.

The proposals in the strategy contribute to a move towards improved air quality in urban areas. Implementation will lead to significant reductions in the major costs to the economy of health care, loss of work and premature death that are currently estimated to amount to SEK 30–42 billion a year. The Committee's proposals also reduce the risk of a ruling against Sweden by the European Court of Justice for exceeding the EU's limits on particles.