Sweden and the climate change performance index

Sweden usually ranks highly on the climate change performance index (CCPI), published by Germanwatch and Climate Action Network Europe. In 2015 it was #2, and in the three previous years it was #4, #2 and #1 among ranked nations, essentially the OECD and some others. The formal ranking is actually lower, but the scorecard leaves the first three places vacant, as a statement that no nation is on track to climate sustainability.

Nevertheless, Sweden is clearly top of the class. A quite easy task, according to many people within the Swedish NGO community.

This is not to say that there is anything fundamentally wrong with the index. Just that its methodology fits Sweden very well.

Sweden has a power system based on hydro (50 per cent) and nuclear (35–40 per cent), with the remainder mainly wind power and biomass CHP.  The hydro plants were built long ago, before climate was an issue, but it rains more than it used to. Nuclear power also preceded climate policy, as did most of the district heating and biomass use.

Sweden has almost no fossil power and not much fossil heat.

These factors automatically give Sweden a high score for low CO₂ emissions per capita, low emissions per GDP unit, high renewables share, and for “efficiency” as defined by the CCPI, which is CO₂ emitted per total energy supply.

The index measures both levels and trends, and Sweden’s trends are not so bad. Before the index started we had the worst gas-guzzling cars in Europe, because they were mainly produced by Volvo and Saab. The spectacular improvement mainly reflects how bad the situation was.

As for electricity, Sweden used to have an absurd overconsumption per capita, now slowly levelling off to a more normal European standard. Building automation in industry, offices and flats has cut electric power use. Heat pumps replace direct electric heating. Electricity demand has dropped some 8 per cent from the 2001 peak. 

Sweden’s nuclear power is getting old, or is poorly managed, or both, so it has produced fewer TWh since 2006 than before. This means, by definition, a higher efficiency for the economy, because nuclear power wastes a lot of energy as tepid water that is discharged into the sea. The energy loss is included in the energy supply.

Emissions from industry have also dropped, mainly because the market for cement, steel, ore, etc., has not quite recovered since 2008. The paper and pulp industry also switched from expensive oil to cheap biomass.

Some of the good scores are results of national policy. Sweden will produce 15–16 TWh of wind power in 2015, against only 1 TWh in 2006, a result of the green certificates. Sweden has built most wind power per capita in the world over the last few years. This is due to Green Certificates, enacted in 2003, but most of the increase took place from 2012 on. 

Biomass use for heating and electricity has a long tradition, but it has been sustained and expanded to vehicle fuels.

Most of the index, 80 percent, uses objective criteria. Sweden comes out well because the country is large, and it rains a lot, so we have a high proportion of hydropower and extensive forests. That gave us a good head-start. The remaining 20 per cent is judgemental, from experts, on policy.

Sweden has done a few good things, such as pioneering heat pumps and efficient windows and some good biofuels. Our greenhouse gas emissions have dropped continuously, and may well continue to do so, though three out of 12 nuclear power reactors are shut down, and another three will be closed down by or before 2020.

We did nothing to pioneer the real climate-savers from scratch, as Denmark did with wind power and Germany with photovoltaics. Maybe they did better in that respect because they had a more uphill task, starting with a lot of coal power.


Fredrik Lundberg

See also article in Acid News 1, 2016 p.6-7

Reference: climate-change-performance-index-2016. http://www.caneurope.org/can-and-press/935-climate-change-performance-in...

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