April 19. 2024. 8:57

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Swedish right-wing government puts country on ‘wrong’ climate path

Sweden has increased its greenhouse gas emissions while other EU member states are reducing them since the new right-wing government, in office for five months, changed its tack on climate policy.

Little more than five months after it came to power, the centre-right Swedish government is criticised for the results of its environmental policy. According to the Swedish Climate Policy Council’s annual assessment, Sweden is going backwards regarding greenhouse gas emissions when the EU is moving forward.

According to the Council, this is the first time in two decades that policy changes have led to increased greenhouse gas emissions.

“Instead of rapidly reducing emissions, the changes decided and announced so far will, on the contrary, according to the government’s own assessment, increase emissions in the near future,” the report states.

“I’ve never heard such hard statements from the Climate Policy Council on basically everything. Sweden is definitely going in the wrong direction,” Green MEP Pär Holmgren told EURACTIV.

But the Swedish government is making long-term and holistic plans that are not necessarily reflected in the Climate Policy Council’s assessment, said Environment Minister Romina Pourmokhtari (Liberal party, Renew Europe).

“Climate change is a critical issue that requires a holistic approach at local, national and global levels. The measures that we decide on during this mandate will be long-term investments that lead to reduced emissions,” she said on Wednesday, adding that Sweden will reach the 2045 net-zero emissions goal.

“In a way, we will because I’m very sure that they [the ruling centre-right coalition] will not be in power throughout the whole period,” Holmgren said.

Predictable outcome

For some opposition members, the Climate Policy Council’s assessment did not come as a surprise.

“I am not surprised at all. Several ministers from the new Swedish government have said loud and clear that reaching targets is not their prime focus. And the decision-making has shown that they have the intention of following through on this when it comes to policy,” MEP Emma Wiesner (Centre Party, Renew Europe) told EURACTIV.

For Green MEP Holmgren, the right-wing government that won the elections in September last year was not at all prepared to take responsibility regarding climate change.

“They were in the opposition for eight years. And they were rather good at it. Very populistic. But if you ask them anything about climate, the only answer is to build more nuclear power plants”, Holmgren said, adding that the current government is not ready to take on such a responsibility.

The same reaction came from the Social Democrats, who ruled Sweden for the last eight years.

“I’m not surprised,” Social Democrat MEP Helene Fritzon told EURACTIV.

“They [the ruling centre-right coalition] have stopped the previous government’s investments in high-speed railway, scrapped the financial incentive to buy fossil-free cars, and cut down the budget for the protection of nature,” Fritzon added.

According to her, the Swedish government must present a serious climate action plan according to Sweden’s climate law that describes which reforms and actions should be taken to compensate for the increased emissions and ensure Sweden reaches its climate goals for 2030 and 2045.

In October, it was found that the new centre-right Swedish ruling coalition supported by the far-right Sweden Democrats is likely to drastically increase greenhouse gas emissions through its intended climate policies by 25 million tons, according to a joint report published by Klimatkollen, WWF, ClimateView, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, and Our Children’s Climate.

Far-right’s influence

For the opposition, the Council’s report is yet another proof of the far-right’s influence on the government, as the supporting far-right Sweden Democrats (SD) party has a history of denying climate change. For instance, its leader, Jimmie Åkesson, said on TV that there was no scientific proof of a climate crisis, which he called a “new religion”.

After the general elections last September, the centre-right Moderates, the Christian Democrats, and the Liberals entered a coalition supported by the unavoidable far-right Sweden Democrats (SD). The SD are not formally part of the government though, while they requested their immigration policy to be applied, they also have a say in many areas, including EU energy and industry policy.

“SD is all about short-term gains and populism. Their ideology is based on the fact that there is always someone else to blame for every problem. And when it comes to climate change, they think that Sweden should do nothing and someone else everything,” Wiesner said.

For the Social Democrats, the Swedish government is “completely dependent on the support of the far-right Swedish Democrats.”

“SD is waging a cultural war against climate action”, said Fritzon, adding that “Liberal Minister of Climate and Environment Romina Pourmokhtari is administrating SD’s climate destructive policies, and it is clear the government has no coherent plan for the climate.”

She further called the Minister and the Liberals to “reconsider their coalition partners” if they are serious about climate change.

EURACTIV reached out to the Sweden Democrats but did not receive an answer by the time of publication.

(Charles Szumski | EURACTIV.com)