Sweden’s Net-Zero Goal
In accordance with the Paris Agreement, countries are to revise their NDCs (Nationally Determined Contributions) every five years, and COP26 offered the first opportunity since 2015 to present any updated goals and pledges.
Following COP21 in 2015, Sweden introduced a climate policy framework, which set out the implementation of the Paris Agreement in Sweden with a goal of being net-zero GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions by 2045. This framework is considered the most important climate reform in Sweden’s history - it offers possibilities for parts of the net-zero goal to be achieved through supplementary measures such as CO2 uptake by forests or climate investments overseas.
The Urgency of Action
Prior to the opening of COP26, the Climate Action Tracker (CAT) reported that EU’s climate policies are not sufficient to limit the global temperature increase to less than 3°C, and the UN, together with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), reported that GHG concentrations in the atmosphere are above pre-pandemic levels. Consequences of global warming and climate change have been highly apparent during the last year, to say the least, and the occurrence of extreme heat, drought, and floods is expected to increase. Several countries arrived at Glasgow with revised and updated NDCs. However, due to an already ambitious plan to reach net-zero emissions, Sweden did not. During the past two weeks, Sweden has pledged to the commitments below.
Sweden’s initial focus was on social and climate justice rather than revised NDCs. Prime Minister Stefan Löfven announced a doubling of Sweden’s climate aid to SEK 15 billion (USD 1.75 billion) by 2025 to support climate change transition in the Global South. In his COP26 speech, Löfven further focused on a national, just net-zero transition, where no member of society is to be left behind The Glasgow Breakthroughs, which Sweden committed to together with more than 40 nations, entails providing and supporting nations in the Global South with “clean technologies and sustainable solutions” necessary to transition to net-zero GHG emissions.
Together with some 100 other nations, Sweden pledged to mitigate methane emissions by 30% of 2020 levels by 2030. Estimations point toward a decrease in global temperature of 0.2°C were this target to be achieved – methane is significantly more potent than carbon dioxide making it responsible for roughly one-third of the global temperature increase since the industrial revolution.
As methane leaks from gas wells and pipelines are common sources of global methane emissions, capping large quantities is a relatively straightforward task. Sweden has one of the lowest methane emissions per capita among EU countries (Malta is the only smaller emitter).
Forest and Land Use
Together with almost 140 other nations, Sweden has committed to stop deforestation, restore deforested land, support indigenous people, and repair damages caused by forest fires up to 2030.
Deforestation accounts for up to 12% of anthropogenic emissions, threatens indigenous communities, and impinges on biodiversity. It is hoped that the targets agreed at COP26 will lead to a larger budget and an increased number of participants will be more successful than a similar target set at a UN meeting in 2014, which was such a failure that deforestation has increased since the 2014 pledge.
Swedish forestry has been criticized as a threat to climate change, the environment, and the rights of the Sámi, an indigenous people living throughout Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Russia. Although no details on Sweden’s participation to reach the target have been announced, Sweden’s Chief Negotiator announced that the pledge would not impact the Swedish forestry industry.
Despite the rules not being fully completed, Sweden and Ghana have agreed to an international climate cooperation to jointly work towards GHG mitigation under Article 6 (emission trading) of the Paris Agreement. The aim of the agreement will see Swedish financing of emission mitigation projects in Ghana – mitigations that can be credited to Sweden in emissions reporting.
Sweden’s contribution to the total global emissions is relatively small. However, the country’s economy and technology allow for ambitious climate targets to be set, both nationally and internationally. Hopefully, the outcomes of COP26 will be of benefit to those communities most vulnerable to climate change and in need of economic assistance.
More: Research Notes, Climate Action Tracker (CAT), CO2, COP26, Greenhouse Gas (GHG), Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs), Net-Zero, Sustainability