The new legislation will ensure that Swedish governments stay on track with the climate targets. Photo: © Niklas – Fotolia.com

Climate law adopted in Sweden

Sweden has decided on a Climate Framework, which requires the government to work towards climate targets and report annually to parliament. One target is climate neutrality by 2045, and “negative emissions” after that.

On June 15, 2017, the Swedish parliament made several decisions on climate policy.

The Climate Act requires the government to present a climate report in its budget bill, each October, and an action plan every four years in accordance with the various climate targets.

Hopefully, this will maintain focus on climate policy, and embarrass governments whose policy does not follow the dotted line towards the targets and timetables.

One target is that by 2030, non-ETS emissions will be at least 63 per cent lower than emissions in 1990, at least 75 per cent lower by 2040, and zero by 2045.

“Supplementary measures” are permitted, such as increased uptake of carbon dioxide by forests or by investing in various climate projects abroad. But they are limited to a maximum of 8 percentage points by 2030 and 2 percentage points by 2040.

There is a specific goal for domestic transport (except aviation, which is covered by ETS). Emissions will have to be reduced by at least 70 per cent by 2030 compared to 2010.

The transport target sounds demanding, but emissions dropped from 19 Mton of CO2e in 2010 to 16 Mton in 2016, due to a combination of rapidly increasing biofuels and improved vehicle efficiency (from a very low starting point). So the target is not unreachable if there is a rapid uptake of electric cars (or hydrogen cars). Some measures will soon be implemented, such as fuel quotas for forcing in more biofuels and the bonus-malus vehicle taxation system, which rewards efficient cars and punishes gas guzzlers.

One reason to believe that the climate law, and associated targets, really binds the government to the mast is that all major parties are behind it, except a right-wing populist party, the Sweden Democrats.

This means that whatever government emerges from the election due by September 2018, it will be held responsible for delivering a climate policy that does not deviate far from the dotted line to 2030.

The first four-year Action Plan will be submitted to parliament in 2019 and will contain the following elements:

  • Emission data since latest inventory (which seems to mean quarterly or monthly data)
  • Prognosis of emission reductions
  • Results of previous measures to reduce emissions
  • Planned measures for emission reductions, with a timetable
  • Estimates of results of decided and planned measures and how they can contribute to target achievement
  • An assessment of additional policy measure options to achieve goals (global and national)

The law is specific. It will be hard for a government to come to Parliament without a plan.

One flaw is that targets leave out emissions under the ETS, as if the emissions in this sector are either a solved problem or outside national control.

ETS emissions in Sweden were 19.7 Mton CO2 out of an estimated total GHG emission of 53.6 Mtons of CO2e, or 37 per cent of the total.

It is however not true that this sector is a no-go area for politics. The power and heat sectors, and the paper and pulp industry, have been largely decarbonised thanks to several national and local policy measures before and after the ETS was introduced. One of them is the green certificate system, which has paved the way for a lot of bio-CHP and wind power. Several energy-saving programmes have involved ETS industries. And in August 2017 the government announced the Industrial Climate Leap, which will spend 30 million euros per year between 2018 and 2040 on feasibility studies and investments in carbon-intensive industries such as steel, cement and refineries.

Obviously promises for spending in the 2030s cannot be taken at face value. But at least there is a plan B if ETS does not work.

Sweden had more nuclear power per capita than any other nation in 2016, but nuclear is not seen as a part of the climate solution. It is not even mentioned in the 66-page Climate Framework bill. There is severe disagreement on nuclear power in Swedish politics, but by 2020, at most 6 of the original 12 reactors will be operative.

Fredrik Lundberg

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