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Karolina Skog is no longer a government minister,
Minister for the Environment

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Cities crucial for tackling the climate challenge

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Minister for the Environment Karolina Skog participated in a couple of jam-packed days at the COP22 Climate Change Conference in Marrakech. Like previous conferences, there was a hive of activity including seminars, launches and bilateral meetings alongside the negotiations. Ms Skog’s programme focused on urban development and the role of municipalities and regions in implementing the Paris climate agreement, and on how states can support local efforts, and she attended a number of seminars on these themes.

  • Minister for the Environment Karolina Skog

    Photo: Jens Persson/Regeringskansliet

  • Minister for the Environment Karolina Skog

    Minister for the Environment Karolina Skog

    Photo: Jens Persson/Regeringskansliet

  • Minister for the Environment Karolina Skog

    Photo: Jens Persson/Regeringskansliet

At a seminar organised by UN-HABITAT, the role of cities in catalysing climate efforts was discussed. The Paris climate agreement and Sustainable Development Goal 11, on sustainable cities and communities, was the main thread running through the discussions.

- "Social inclusion, gender equality and access to good quality public transport are keys in the work on urban development. As the minister responsible for urban development, I have a vision of sustainable cities for everyone, and to get there we need to tackle several challenges at the same time," said Ms Skog at the seminar.

Ms Skog pointed out that cities have a big responsibility in climate transition, and that governments and states must support their work through political visions and funding. Cities now have the opportunity to demonstrate leadership in transitioning to sustainable societies the world over.

- "I have high hopes that the strong willingness we see in cities and businesses the world over will carry climate efforts forward," says Ms Skog.

New initiative to encourage cities and regions to learn together

During an event on the 'Under2 MOU' initiative, which gathers 165 cities and regions with more than one billion inhabitants, Minister for the Environment Karolina Skog let it be known that Sweden supports the initiative. So far, one Swedish stakeholder has joined – Region Jämtland Härjedalen. Now Ms Skog wants to arouse interest for the initiative in more Swedish cities and regions.

- "There is a lot to learn from each other as we develop and transition our cities. The Government has initiated several important national processes, not least the strategic partnership programmes and the Fossil-free Sweden initiative. I am seeing that Swedish stakeholders can contribute knowledge on a global scale to an even greater extent than previously, and the Under2 MOU initiative is a good example," said Ms Skog.

Health perspective necessary in climate efforts

Minister for the Environment Karolina Skog also participated in a seminar on climate and health organised by WHO. Climate change entails both new and aggravated health risks. The spread of illnesses is expected to increase in line with the increase of global emissions of carbon dioxide. Dangerous air pollutants are also increasing in line with carbon dioxide emissions. According to WHO, 6.5 million people are already dying each year due to air pollutants.

- "From now on, everything we do must be linked to the Global Goals for sustainable development. If we are to achieve Goal 3 on good health and well-being we must work with all sectors, not just the health sector," said Dr Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum of WHO.

- "We must make sure that the climate action we take is also good for the air we breathe. For example, if we burn biomass in the wrong way it can significantly worsen air quality. This must be avoided at all costs – poor air quality is the greatest and most acute environmental problem we face," said Ms Skog.

Goals for urban development necessary

The world's societies need to become fossil-free; how can cities show the way? This was the question at a seminar organised by the OECD together with Japan. Researchers, regional representatives and ministers took part to share their experiences.

- "Over the next 35 years, we will build cities for 3.5 billion people. This places enormous demands on infrastructure. From the point of view of policy, we need to set goals for the development of these cities and make sure to steer investment flows in a sustainable direction. This is something I will do back home in Sweden over the coming year," said Ms Skog.

Other countries and international bodies have shown great interest in Sweden's climate efforts at national and local level. Sweden and Swedish cities were highlighted as role models on several occasions during the Climate Change Conference in Marrakech.