Climate change is taking place, and in many parts of the world at a pace that contributes to more frequent and intense extreme weather phenomena. The way we organize our society, and make use of natural resources, affects the earth’s ecosystems. The effects of climate change are not just environmental: They affect all aspects of human activity, including tourism infrastructure, agricultural production, people’s health and, in the long run, political stability and migration.
Maintaining unsustainable production and consumption patterns that are depleting our natural resources and causing climate change is no longer an option.
The big challenge is to design and implement climate-smart development policies. It is a challenge for all countries, whether poor or rich, and it creates opportunities for business. Investing in climate is to invest in economic development and growth. This was the main conclusion from a recent OECD report submitted to the G20. We now see the emergence of a new climate economy which offers the prospects of economic and social transformation while staying within the planetary boundaries.
Now that the economic situation in Greece is improving and positive results of the country’s reform efforts are becoming visible, Greece and Sweden should enhance their cooperation to address climate change. We are hoping that a joint project between Greek and Swedish municipalities dealing with waste management will be a concrete example of our shared responsibility for the environment.
We must put the emphasis on opportunities. Green technologies and innovations offer powerful opportunities. They are key to a sustainable future. That is why the Hellenic-Swedish Chamber of Commerce and the Embassy of Sweden in Athens are pleased that the annual Business Forum Greece-Sweden on March 13 will be dealing with how business can create values from climate change.
Countries can grow while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But there are no quick fixes. Environmental policies must set long-term objectives and create economic instruments, such as carbon tax and green incentives.
Sweden has shown that it is possible for the economy to grow while reducing emissions. Since 1990 our gross domestic product has grown by approximately 60 percent. At the same time, our carbon emissions have decreased by around 20 percent. Our aim is to have zero net emissions of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere by 2045.
This target was set in June last year as Sweden’s parliament decided to introduce a climate policy framework. This Climate Act is the most important climate reform in Sweden’s history and sets out implementation of the Paris Agreement. The act obliges each government to pursue a climate policy based on the climate goals adopted by the parliament.
By introducing effective measures, governments and business can jointly drive innovation and raise competitiveness. Sustainable and innovative solutions for energy, infrastructure and transport are at the core of Sweden’s knowledge and expertise. Swedish suppliers can offer innovative and environmentally sustainable technology for diverse types of industries and urban infrastructure.
Green technology, often referred to as clean tech, is an industry with huge potential. Sharing Swedish experience and transferring Swedish green technology could improve the prospects for sustainable development in other countries. This is why the Swedish government actively shares information about sustainable technology through various programs aimed at knowledge transfer and enhanced international cooperation in research and innovation.
Two sector-specific instruments are central in disseminating Swedish sustainable technology. The Swedish government and the business community have jointly developed the concept of SymbioCity – Sustainability by Sweden.
SymbioCity is a communication platform for marketing Swedish environmentally sustainable solutions in the area of urban development. It entails a network of companies in different fields and a methodology for working in an integrated and holistic way.
The second instrument is the SymbioCity Academy Programs. These are training programs for foreign government agencies, municipalities and organizations on green technology and sustainable urban development, based on Swedish experience and tools.
Even though Sweden is ranked as one of the most sustainable countries in a number of international indices, the Swedish focus is not on what has been accomplished but rather on what remains to be done. Together with Greece we would like to meet the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead of us.
Charlotte Sammelin is Sweden's ambassador to Greece.