Swedes link environmental, economic performance

Budget proposal announces seven green indicators, boosts environmental investment

The Swedish government is to include environmental indicators in its budget for the first time, it announced today. Its outline budget, containing proposals for incorporation into a final budget bill in the autumn, also contains significant boosts for environmental investment, particularly in research and contaminated land clean-up. According to environment minister Kjell Larsson, it signals a record allocation of resources to environmental programmes.

Environment ministry advisors proposed a set of 23 green indicators early last year (ENDS Daily 26 January 1998). This year's budget will include seven: emission levels for carbon dioxide (CO2), sulphur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), energy efficiency, emissions of phosphorus and nitrates to the sea, and benzene levels in the air. Most will take 1980 as a base year.

The seven indicators paint a "broad picture of the central environmental issues in Sweden," a finance ministry official told ENDS Daily. He described them as a "first step to greener national accounts," and said that more indicators could be added in future. The combination of environmental and economic information would benefit policy-makers in both areas, and could lead to "new ways of thinking," he added.

The budget also announces a significant boost in funding for environmental research, in particular into monitoring and toxins. The latter will receive SKr50m (euros 5.6m) in 2000, to be increased to SKr100m annually in 2001 and 2002. Research into environmentally-friendly construction methods will gain an extra SKr50m annually over the next three years.

The government will more than double the resources allocated to cleaning up contaminated land and water from next year. Some SKr170m will be made available in 1999-2001, rising to SKr515 in 2000-2002. Sweden currently has over 22,000 documented contaminated land sites and the government has pledged to clean them all within 25 years.

Liming programmes to counter acidification in lakes and waterways are to get a one-off SKr23m boost, because an extra effort is needed after high precipitation levels in 1998, the government says. An additional SKr30m has also been allocated for each of the next three years. The environmental protection agency is expected to present a national strategy by the end of June.

Funding for biodiversity initiatives will also increase, in particular to help the government to buy forest areas to expand nature reserves. Local authority sustainable development projects will be funded for an additional year, receiving a total of SKr1,200m for the period 1999-2002. The budget also announces new tax breaks for electrical cars (ENDS Daily 30 March).

Greenpeace Sweden described the outline budget as an "improvement" on previous budgets. The inclusion of environmental indicators is an "important initiative," a spokesperson told ENDS Daily. However, the group would like to see indicators on chemicals use in the next budget.

Follow Up:
Swedish finance ministry, tel: +46 8 405 1000.

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