Sweden’s former Head of Climate negotiation Anders Turesson

17/03/2011 / Kaj

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Nuclear power on the agenda towards a climate-neutral societal planning

The week that has passed has been chock-a-block with new challenges. One crisis has come in the wake of another and the focus has shifted. Our fossil fuel dependency, our nuclear power crisis and our energy prices are eating away at our wallets and environment and is also giving us plenty of human rights issues to reflect over. How can we set the compass with such large crises taking place at the same time as we focus on the climate field? How does the Chinese 5-year plan interpret, an unappreciative US Congress that does not believe in climate change, and the difficulty nations have in reaching agreement at climate negotiations? And how do we interpret the latest EU Roadmap in the climate field?

Behind the headlines there is often a more nuanced reality that is worth taking up. My own thoughts take on a lighter shade as I note everything that is happening in new fields in what is known as the Low Carbon Economy. Here you will find the market where investments are forecast to exceed USD 22 trillion in the next 20 years. In its Earth Hour, WWF maintains that a focus on construction and urban infrastructure in the next 30 years will attract investments of around USD 350 billion.

Fossil fuel dependency will decrease, and we Swedes can feel pride in bioenergy already having passed fossil fuels (2009) in our total energy consumption. A unique fact that proves that it is possible to bring about change! Swedish technological system solutions show how district heating played a significant role in reducing our oil dependency. However, what they should consider is why Sweden has not entered the debate on the EU’s new roadmap in the climate field and taken up the Swedish trade possibilities involved. In a debate on the EU Roadmap last week, a professors claimed that the EU focuses too much on large-scale solutions like CCS and too little on more flexible local based system-technological solutions.

Environmental ministers taking joint action in Europe is of course a good thing. But there is still a lack of “edge” in the debates on the tangible “low hanging fruit” that already exists today and which could have an impact in the short term. Increased district heating efficiency with the focus on central and eastern Europe, and thus a bolstered investment programme for local sustainable urban development, is one of several areas that should be taken up. Locally based district heating only makes up ten per cent of the total market today, and it is already possible to supply 20 times more climate-neutral heat through energy efficiency measures, residual heat from industry, ground heat, biomass, etc. (Swedish District Heating Association).

More locally produced energy would also reduce the EU’s oil dependency, as is clear to see in Sweden. Energy efficiency resulting in reduced energy consumption of 30 per cent by 2050 is possible. This would mean that the EU could save a total of €175–320 billion a year in the next 40 years according to the EU’s own calculations.

In the EU budget for 2011, €27 billion has been allocated to climate policy. It would not be a bad idea to set up a watchdog for how this money is used in the next few years. Nobody wants the money to end up in wrong or non-prioritised areas, or not used at all due to red tape.

Most companies have come to understand the profitability of investing in climate-smart areas. It also creates new jobs, and according to facts from the EU commission, 1.5 million new jobs can be created by 2020 in the green sector.

From what I can see, the propelling force in this development will come from local urban development with regard to oil dependency, markets and population increase. Cities must therefore play a more important role within the member states, with regard to both climate agreements and trade policies. Perhaps it is time to change roles or at least renew the interaction between governments and local players?

Kaj Embrén

 

 

 

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