Sweden maps road to a sustainable future

Official advisors recommend policies to achieve government's 15 environmental goals

Sweden has charted one of Europe's most ambitious national environmental strategies ever, with publication yesterday of a report recommending how to achieve 15 overarching environmental goals approved last year (ENDS Daily 29 April 1999).

As well as building detailed strategies and targets for each goal, the report maps out a new model of "management by objectives and results". It was presented by an inter-party committee and its recommendations will now be turned into a draft law by the government. Committee chairman Jon Kahn told ENDS Daily the detailed input provided by individual sectors made the report a "unique and complex" exercise.

Efficient use of resources will become paramount in what the committee dubs an "ecocycle society," and annual reports will be submitted on progress towards each goal. One of the most ambitious new targets concerns the objective of clean air. This to reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from transport by 60% by 2005 over 1991 levels and to virtually eliminate VOC emissions from other sectors.

Other air quality targets relate closely to the strategy for limiting climate change, released earlier this year by a separate but associated committee. These include tougher limits for sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and ammonia to bring about natural acidification only and HCFCs to be eventually phased out to contribute to a protective ozone layer. One of the mostly costly provisions to implement, Mr Kahn says, will be cutting levels of radon gas in housing to help achieve a safe radiation environment.

On provision of high-quality groundwater, the correlation between environmental quality and health protection will be investigated. Non-indigenous and genetically modified fish will be forbidden to help ensure sustainable lakes and watercourses.

Bans on ditch drainage will be extended to promote flourishing wetlands, and protection secured for at least half of the species covered by an existing plan. Among measures to secure a balanced marine environment and sustainable coastal areas, shipping will be required to minimise noise, air and water pollution. To end eutrophication, particularly in the Baltic Sea, a "concrete, realisable" programme will be developed which may lead to a strengthening of the present requirement of a 40% reduction in nitrogen emissions.

Ambitious plans for sustainable forests include tough new set-aside and natural replanting rules. To promote a varied agricultural landscape, the government will need to move beyond the EU's common agricultural policy, particularly on biotope protection, the report says. Transport features highly in plans for a good urban environment.

International work will be stressed across all the goals, but particularly for that of achieving a non-toxic environment, a separate report on which was released on Monday (ENDS Daily 5 June).

Follow Up:
Sustainable Sweden website, the full report: Our Future Environment, and the earlier report on toxic substances Non-Hazardous Products.

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