Nina Ekelund: Let’s talk about Sweden’s climate success


Nina Ekelund, Program Director, the Haga Initiative | 18 April, 2017

The Trump administration has said it will let the world know in May whether the US will stay in the Paris Agreement or not. This alarming message came when the G7 countries met recently. Already today, 143 countries have ratified, accepted or approved the agreement and the USA is one of these countries. The USA is also the world’s second largest emitter of greenhouse gases (GHG) and backing out now will eventually hamper America’s competitiveness and prosperity.

Unfortunately, the G7 energy ministers failed to agree on a common position regarding climate change, after the USA expressed reservations. This is because the country is “re-analyzing” its energy policies. President Trump has proposed that the federal budget should be cut by at least USD 100 million to various programs designed to combat climate change. A third of the proposed cuts would hit the US Environmental Protection Agency.

This occurs despite the fact that the G7 in 2015 stated that climate change is a major global security threat, that its impact is transnational, contributes to violent conflict and has a negative impact on the economy of developing countries.

Similarly, the World Economic Forum’s Global Risks Report 2017 shows that 4 of the top 5 global risks are linked to climate change. These risks affect economic growth as well as global stability.

The initiative Business Backs Low-Carbon USA, supported by over 1000 American companies and investors, is a light in the dark. They want to see a continuation of climate policy, climate smart investment, and that the USA continues to support the Paris Agreement. Why? Well, this is what they say:

“We want the US economy to be energy efficient and powered by low-carbon energy. Cost-effective and innovative solutions can help us achieve these objectives. Failure to build a low-carbon economy puts American prosperity at risk. But the right action now will create jobs and boost US competitiveness.”

In summary, many US companies see that the right climate policy leads to job creation and increased competitiveness. This is exactly what we have seen in Sweden. Since 1990, Swedish GHG emissions have been reduced by 25 percent and GDP has increased by 69 percent. We have managed to decouple these two from each other.

The companies of the Haga Initiative also see that reduced emissions means business. Six years ago, we set a target to reduce emissions by 40 percent by 2020 and the majority of the companies have already reached this goal. Now we have set the target of becoming fossil free by 2030. These ambitious goals have been set because it makes business sense and it enhances the competitiveness of our companies in the world. Swedish companies have been stimulated by climate policy, in particular the carbon tax that was introduced in 1991. It is partly thanks to the carbon tax that we have reduced emissions and created new business, especially within industry and the heating sector, where some of the largest emission reductions have occurred. This clearly drives new green business. If the US should not be left behind, they should take the opportunity to talk with Swedish politicians and business leaders about the Swedish climate success.

This will be emphasized on the seminar Business Opportunities for the Climate and Economy in Washington on the 21st of April. I promise to come back with a blog about the response we got.

Nina Ekelund: Let’s talk about Sweden’s climate success

Nina Ekelund, Program Director, the Haga Initiative

“Many US companies see that the right climate policy leads to job creation and increased competitiveness. This is exactly what we have seen in Sweden.”