Swedish local sustainability plan underway

Virtually all local authorities request funding for sustainable development projects

Virtually all of Sweden´s 288 local authorities are interested in sharing a SKr5.4bn (Ecu0.6bn) government fund for local sustainable development projects, it was revealed at a meeting in Stockholm on Monday.

The scheme got underway recently, and so far SKr147m has been paid out to six municipalities. The sponsored projects include building biogas and solar power plants, constructing recycling industries as well as efforts to minimise nitrogen leaks in to the sea. All the projects are expected to generate a number of much needed jobs on the local level.

On Monday, representatives of municipalities all over Sweden met to evaluate the work so far and discuss the use of the remaining funds. The gathering was hosted by environment minister Anna Lindh and government ministers belonging to the National Commission on Ecologically Sustainable Development. Local authority representatives stressed the importance of making the money available to a wide range of innovative activities, not only to traditional projects for protection of the environment and safeguarding nature.

EU environment commissioner Ritt Bjerregaard also attended the meeting. She said she hoped that the EU would learn something from the tremendous success of the environmental work carried out so far by communities in Sweden, implementing Agenda 21 on the local level. "The Swedish efforts can give us some ideas for the next meeting of the European Council in Cardiff in June," said Ms Bjerregaard, having in mind the environment strategy paper that the European Commission is due to propose to EU heads of state and government. Following the meeting, Ms Bjerregaard met with the Swedish Prime Minister Göran Persson to discuss the matter.

Despite Ms Bjerregaard's warm praise, the Swedish initiative has attracted some domestic criticism from opposition political parties. "This money has been taken from funds needed for important research projects on vital environmental issues. We therefore challenge this decision," Per Ola Bosson of the Conservative Party told ENDS Daily. According to Mr Bosson it would have been better to keep and extend the ongoing research. "It looks more like a government move to create more jobs on the local level," he added. Torbjörn Pettersson of the Liberal Party shared Mr Bosson's scepticism. "Much needed money for protecting nature reserves is being taken away by the government's present policies," he said.

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

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