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How The Swedish Green Champion Was Finally Able To Carry Out His Carbon Sins

How The Swedish Green Champion Was Finally Able To Carry Out His Carbon Sins

When a Swedish court ordered the country’s largest cement producer to stop lime production from large defense stations on Gotland to prevent pollution, ecologists rejoiced.

In addition to protecting wildlife and water supplies, the decision could force the plant, which produces 75% of Sweden’s cement and the country’s second -largest carbon emitter, to stop production while looking for raw materials elsewhere or even shut down altogether.

This may be good for the Swedish emissions target, but not good news for the outside world.

A government report released by Reuters says it could force Sweden to import cement from countries that emit more emissions throughout the production process – or risk losing big jobs in the domestic construction industry.

“Imports outside the EU tend to have a greater environmental impact due to lower CO2 emission standards and lower land use standards,” the report said.

The Swedish problem is one of the challenges facing the Glasgow states in the UN climate debate, COP26: how to show that they are not reducing emissions by simply exporting the problem elsewhere – a phenomenon called “carbon leakage”.

Sweden, a rich and stable Nordic democracy, has long been at the forefront of the world environment and has managed to reduce greenhouse gases over the years while maintaining economic growth toward its 2045 net emissions target.

It has the highest carbon tax in the world at $ 137 per ton and is a leader in the use of renewable energy. In 2018, CO2 emissions per capita were 3.5 tonnes, well below the European Union average of 6.4 tonnes, according to World Bank data.

But the state of the Slite cement plant illustrates growing tensions between environmental goals and the 2015 Paris Agreement signed by nearly 200 countries to try to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“We have to pay attention to visits – to do as much as possible for the climate – but also to maintain great ideals when it comes to our local environment,” Per Bolund, Sweden’s environment and climate minister, told Reuters. “It is possible to balance the two.”


Most of the cement imported from Europe comes from Turkey, Russia, Belarus and countries in North Africa.

They differ from the EU Emissions Program (ETS), the world’s largest carbon market, and the market that determines the carbon footprint of energy -intensive industries, including cement, in 27 national organizations.

The World Bank says only 22% of world emissions were subject to price controls last year, and the International Monetary Fund set the world average carbon price at $ 3 per tonne – a fraction of Sweden’s carbon tax.

Although Swedish courts are not concerned with Slite’s carbon footprint, but with the risks posed by quarries, local groundwater, the impact on emissions depends on the efficiency and energy composition of producers who tend to supply Swedish cement.

Slite’s owner, HeidelbergCement in Germany, also plans to make it the world’s first carbon fiber cation plant by 2030, but uncertainty about its future after the decision could delay or even destroy it.

“We need a long -term decision on this operation if it is not delayed,” Magnus Ohlsson, CEO of Swedish subsidiary HeidelbergCement, Cementa, said last month.

Koen Coppenholle, head of European cement group Cembureau, says he is confident that European factories as a whole are “cleaner” because high EU carbon taxes on producers have prompted them to invest to reduce their emissions.

“In Europe, right now, we replace 50% of our primary fuel needs with other fuels,” he said.

According to Cembureau, however, cement imports outside the EU have jumped 160% in the last five years, although the overall volume is relatively small.

But carbon leakage, where emissions are shifted from countries with stricter environmental regulations to countries with more relaxed and cheaper controls, is a problem for dozens of industries and policymakers trying to address it.

In July, the EU announced plans for the world’s first carbon tax to protect European industries, including cement, from competitors abroad where producers produce at lower costs because they are not charged for their carbon production.

The cement industry in Europe supports the move but warns that it is difficult to address, such as how to measure emissions in different countries where processes and fuels differ.

“If you set strict requirements for CO2 and emissions, you have to make sure that you do it de

In a country like Sweden, which has reduced emissions by 29% in the last three decades, the issue of domestic action on global impacts is much higher than that of cement.

Emissions from domestic production are already declining and will drop to nearly 60 million tonnes of carbon equivalent by 2018.

But if you measure what Swedes eat, including goods and services produced abroad, the figure is about a third higher, according to Statistics Iceland, which sets so-called emissions based on consumption at 82 million tonnes that year.

The climate is global

The local versus international perspective also raises the question of which industry policy is greener.

Sweden’s leading steel company SSAB, state -owned company LKAB and utility Vattenfall, for example, have invested heavily in developing processes to produce fertilizer without using fossil fuels.

They say that switching to the green hydrogen energy mentioned above will reduce Sweden’s emissions by around 10%, a key step towards achieving the country’s goal of 2045 net emissions.

But for scientists Magnus Henrekson at the Industrial Economics Research Institute, Christian Sandstrom at the Jonkoping International Business School and Carl Alm at the Ratio Institute, this is an example of “environmental nationalism” that benefits one country, not the world.

 Swedish green champion 

They estimate that if Sweden exports the renewable energy it will use to produce hydrogen for Poland and Germany – so they can reduce coal production – then total CO2 emissions will be reduced 10 to 12 times more than by producing “green” fertilizer.

Although the EU’s carbon footprint will only be maintained after 2026, it may be too late to affect the fate of the Cementa limestone mine.

The Swedish parliament has approved the government’s proposal to harmonize the country’s environmental laws to delay construction of Cementa, but no long-term solution has been found.

Environmentalists such as David Kihlberg, head of climate change at the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, say the easing of regulations is a reason for the industry to delay the changes that need to happen now.

“It would be terrible for climate activists if Sweden reached the summit of the Glasgow climate conference and said that our climate policy is to increase emissions and environmental impacts to pull the carpet under Chinese cement producers,” he said, referring to the violent -scenario.

“Climate change is global in nature and must be resolved internationally cooperation.



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