Sweden sets out ambitious climate goals

Local action plans, industrial gases phase-out, energy efficiency come into focus, as long- term strategy mulled

A long-term strategy for halving national greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 has been mapped out by an expert committee on climate change appointed by the Swedish government. The document, due to be presented to the government later in April, also contains more detailed proposals for achieving Sweden's Kyoto target of a 2% cut in emissions over 1990 levels in the period 2008-12.

Key elements will include the development of local action plans to combat climate change, based on an existing network of committees promoting sustainable development. Some SKr600m (euros 72.3m) will be allocated annually for local projects in areas such as transport and planning.

A proposal to start phasing out the three industrial greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto protocol (hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride) is likely to be developed, and regulations governing energy efficiency, particularly in housing, industry and offices will be tightened. Money will be allocated to a programme designed to shift heavy freight from road to rail, and the possibility of introducing an emissions-based car tax examined.

The committee also recommends the expansion of subsidies for the development of wind power, which is slated for a tenfold increase by 2010. Wind turbines currently generate 0.1-0.2 TWh: it is hoped to increase this to 3-5 TWh. The committee has fought shy of recommending specific emissions cuts for different sectors, however, stressing the greater efficiency of a national focus for achieving global targets.

A three-year public information campaign will kick off after parliamentary approval of the strategy, hopefully in late 2000 or early 2001. One of the functions will be to prepare people for more stringent measures if Sweden fails to meet its own interim target of stabilising emissions by 2005. With levels having so far risen by 6% over 1990, officials accept this is a distinct possibility. The strategy refers to the possibility of increasing carbon taxes if a review in two years' time is pessimistic.

The committee concludes that emissions trading and use of other flexible mechanisms would be preferable to carbon taxation, but insists that these should be a supplement to, rather than a substitute for, national action. Sweden is already involved in preparing a joint implementation scheme in the Baltic region, but says important questions remain over establishing the long-term environmental impact of flexible mechanisms and demonstrating their fairness on the international stage.

Follow Up:
Swedish environment ministry, tel: +46 8 40 51 00 00. A summary of the climate change strategy is available in Swedish and will be posted in English later in April.

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