Sweden approves key environmental goals

Stakeholders to help draw up detailed targets in national push for sustainability

The Swedish parliament has approved 15 environmental goals that it hopes will contribute to the achievement of sustainable development within one generation - as promised by prime minister Göran Persson in 1997 (ENDS Daily 22 September 1997).

The fifteen goals call for the achievement and maintenance of clean air, unpolluted groundwater, living lakes and waterways, vibrant water meadows, a sea in balance and a living coastline, balanced use of fertilisers, absence of acidification, living forests, a rich landscape, healthy mountain ecosystems, a good built environment, a poison-free environment, absence of radiation, a protective ozone layer, and limited climate effects.

They represent a boiling down of more than 150 previous policy objectives, and were conceived in parallel with the new national environmental code, which passed into law in January (ENDS Daily 15 May 1998). This legislation rolled together Sweden's 15 major environmental laws and added in the use of the precautionary principle and the polluter pays principle for contaminated land, some recent EU legislation such as environmental quality rules, and new powers for local authorities to impose on-the-spot fines for non-compliance with 25 different aspects of environmental regulation.

Detailed work will now start on fleshing out specific targets relating to each environmental goal, as well as action programmes and analysis of socio-economic impact, so that a final strategy can be put in place by June 2000, Jon Kahn, who chairs a committee that will oversee its implementation, told ENDS Daily. "We feel we have a very good environmental record in Sweden, but it could have been even better if we had had greater involvement by sectoral agencies, and their views on achieving sustainable development had been taken into account." The strategy will cover the period to 2020, but is expected to contain interim goals for 2010 and earlier.

"The goals may well lead to tougher legislation or greater use of fiscal instruments, but what is key is a new focus on dialogue with industry," said a spokesperson for the Ecocycle Committee, an independent body set up 30 years ago to advise the environment ministry. "What we have now is a compass for the future: what will be critical is how much flesh is put upon [the goals]."

Industry groups and environmental NGOs will help to define criteria and have both welcomed the development, although they also expressed reservations that some goals may prove too vague. The targets relating to chemicals policy have been seen as being particularly far-reaching, placing Sweden at the cutting edge of EU policy formulation (see accompanying article).

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

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