Sweden Legislates for Sustainability

STOCKHOLM, Sweden, May 4, 2001 (ENS) - The Swedish government today underlined its determination to make Sweden the world's most environmentally sustainable nation by proposing a series of legal targets and deadlines for implementing 15 over-arching environmental quality objectives adopted in 1999.

Designed to achieve environmental sustainability within one generation, the new environmental quality objectives bill sets out about 60 "concrete measures and strategies" to achieve 14 of the 15 quality objectives by 2010.

Separate proposals on how to achieve "reduced climate impact" will emerge this autumn. The law is largely based on proposals from a government committee last June.

The move has even greater impact because Sweden now holds the revolving six months Presidency of the European Union.

Environment Minister Kjell Larsson showed clear pride in the achievement today. "Never before has such a well prepared and well supported proposal been presented in the field of environmental protection," he stated. The government was creating a "unique and ultra-modern environmental policy mechanism," he said.


Swedish Environment Minister Kjell Larsson (Photos courtesy Swedish Presidency)
Government funding for environmental protection is to rise by 70 percent by 2004. Last month the finance ministry pledged only a 25 percent rise in green spending by then.

Several elements in the draft law go further than existing policies. To achieve the objective of clean air, for example, the government pledges to reduce sulphur dioxide emissions by "at least" 7,000 tonnes per year more than required under either the UN Gothenburg Protocol or the draft European Union national emission ceilings directive.

Emissions of nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds are to be cut by 44 percent by 2010 compared with today.

The government says it is "raising the stakes" on forest protection by providing long term protection for a further 900,000 hectares (3,474 square miles). An existing national plan for protecting wetlands is to be implemented in its entirety by 2010, which means safeguards for a further 300 sites.

To achieve "zero eutrophication," nitrogen discharges to the Baltic Sea are to be cut by at least 30 percent by 2010.


Nykoping, Sweden
From next year the government is to pay an extra 1.6 million euros to reduce lake and river acidity. Furthermore, half of the entire water environment should be placed under long term protection by 2010.

Oil discharges to the sea are to be negligible by 2010, for which there will be additional funding of 50 million Swedish krona per year from 2004.

Back on land, at least 50 of the 100 highest priority contaminated sites are to be completely remediated by 2005. The current planning and building act is to be reviewed based on strategies aimed at cutting car use and making energy consumption more efficient.

Monitoring progress under the law is to be the responsibility of a new environmental quality objectives council, using a new system of environmental indicators. The government will report to parliament annually, with "a fundamental review" every four years.


{Published in cooperation with ENDS Environment Daily, Europe's choice for environmental news. Environmental Data Services Ltd, London. Email: envdaily@ends.co.uk}