Prices paramount in the clean energy debate

Ms Anna Lindstedt, Sweden’s Climate Ambassador takes us behind Sweden’s ambition for Climate Cooperation

Interview excerpt:

Innovations’ Accelerator (IA): The discussions around climate change have brought in increasing role of the private sector in mitigation activities. What role can private sector business play to manage climate change?

Anna Lindstedt (AL): I think the private sector is extremely important. Because, we know that the bulk of the mitigation actions come from the businesses, so their role is really important in driving the change, in developing new technologies, of course with the support of the governments and with the government and parliament setting the legal standards and the direction and also, obviously, with the support of a global framework. I must say that climate change is now on the agenda of all governments and also of all CEOs of not just the big corporations, but also small and medium sized companies.

IA: What kind of interface do you suggest between governments and private business?

AL: An interface has been there the whole time. I think there’s a growing awareness of the importance of the businesses. So, for example we saw in the last climate meeting, both what we call the pre-COP, the pre-meeting and also in the COP, the climate meeting as such that industries were there.

IA: You have witnessed bottom up realities of climate change in Pakistan, Vietnam, Mexico and Indonesia. How are these realities represented in a top down situation?

AL: I think there is a growing awareness. I think that most people out in the countryside, living by the sea for instance have already seen and realized the effects of climate change. But they are increasingly active also in influencing the governments. Also, governments have realized the effects, both the causes and the effects of climate change, so I think there is a clear raising of awareness

IA: Sweden is in an enviable position of increasingly delinking its economy from fossil fuels. How did Sweden manage that?

AL: First of all, we have a very close relationship with nature. It’s sort of in our soul to care about the environment; I think that is one aspect of it; and then, when we started feeling the effects of industrialization, we felt that some things were happening, and then we had public awareness campaigns. These were campaigns to raise awareness, like when I grew up, we had this campaign called ‘Keep Sweden Clean’; and then there was another decisive moment in the 70s when we had the energy crisis and the oil prices were going up and we were heavily dependent on fossil fuels at the time but that is when we really started transforming our society with all sorts of measures and one really important measure was the tax on carbon, the CO2 tax, that we started implementing in the early 90s. In 1991, we were among the first countries to have such a tax. Of course, there were protests in the beginning because no one likes paying taxes, but today there are very few people who would question and argue that we should get rid of the carbon tax.

IA: How will the emerging economies like India achieve a low carbon economy while pursuing growth?

AL: It’s a difficult challenge. I think as you said, growth, strong growth, push for growth, push for development, push for access to food, access to energy and at the same time a growing realization that India also has to go for more low carbon solutions, which is already happening; but of course, it’s also a question of price and then we talk about fossil fuel. Traditionally, countries like India have used subsidies to support the poor segments of the population and now there is a growing awareness that these subsidies are to be phased out so it’s a difficult balance, but I think one should try and see the opportunities also and also think what’s best for India in the long term and avoid some of the mistakes that we made in the west, in the industrialized countries because we didn’t have access to the right kind of technology and we didn’t understand the effects. I mean, you can see some of the effects of pollution but CO2 emissions, you don’t feel them until it’s too late, until you feel the effect.

IA: Since climate change is a global issue that concerns everyone, how can Sweden cooperate with India?

AL: I think Sweden has an important role to play as an example, to share our experiences, be it on the regulatory level, legislative level, as a constructive party to the climate change negotiation and also as a constructive actor in other multilateral negotiations and we can also share our technology solutions in various ways. I mean, commercially, but also through other forms of cooperation and also I think it is important to think that we also have a lot of things to learn from Indian experiences. You can share with us be it traditional food, traditional medicine and other traditional values that we would really gain from learning about; because the quality of life is not just about having several cars and having a big house and buying a lot of new things, it’s also about how we take care of our health, how we take care of what we eat and all types of other kinds of (6:10- 6:11). I think we have a lot to learn from India and also modern India, where you have an entrepreneurship spirit which is something that we can learn from.