How green champion Sweden could end up exporting its carbon sins

Above Article Content Ad
  • Courtroom ruling threatens Sweden’s greatest cement manufacturing unit
  • Any closure might result in imports with increased carbon prices
  • ‘Carbon leakage’ a difficulty for leaders at COP26 in Glasgow
  • Native inexperienced targets could also be at odds with international targets

STOCKHOLM, Oct 18 (Reuters) – When a Swedish courtroom ordered the nation’s greatest cement maker to cease mining limestone by its enormous manufacturing unit on the windswept island of Gotland to forestall air pollution, ecologists cheered.

In addition to defending wildlife and water provides, the ruling might power the plant that makes 75% of Sweden’s cement and is the nation’s second greatest carbon emitter to slash output whereas it finds uncooked supplies elsewhere, and even shut altogether.

That could be good for Sweden’s emissions targets, however not such excellent news for the remainder of the planet.

A government-commissioned report seen by Reuters mentioned it might power Sweden to import cement from nations that pump out extra emissions within the general manufacturing course of – or danger huge job losses within the development trade at dwelling.

“Imports from nations outdoors the EU would in all probability result in bigger environmental impacts on account of decrease requirements associated to CO2 emissions and decrease requirements in land use,” the report, obtained through a freedom of data request, mentioned.

Sweden’s dilemma encapsulates one the challenges dealing with nations assembly in Glasgow for the U.N. COP26 local weather talks: the best way to present they don’t seem to be slicing emissions by merely exporting the issue elsewhere – a phenomenon generally known as “carbon leakage”.

A wealthy, secure Nordic democracy, Sweden has lengthy topped worldwide environmental rankings and has managed to chop again on greenhouse gases for years whereas preserving financial progress on a path in direction of its goal of web zero emissions by 2045.

It has the world’s highest carbon tax at $137 per tonne and is a pacesetter in using renewable vitality. In 2018, its carbon emissions per head stood at 3.5 tonnes, nicely under the European Union common of 6.4 tonnes, in accordance with World Financial institution knowledge.

However the stand-off over the Slite cement plant epitomises the rising pressure between native surroundings targets and the 2015 Paris Settlement signed by almost 200 nations to attempt to restrict international warming to 1.5 Celsius.

“We’ve got to weigh up the worldwide focus – doing essentially the most for the local weather – but in addition keep our excessive ambitions in relation to our native environmental issues,” Sweden’s Minster for Atmosphere and Local weather Per Bolund informed Reuters. “These two issues may be balanced.”


A lot of Europe’s imported cement comes from Turkey, Russia, Belarus and nations in North Africa.

They do not have something just like the EU’s Emissions Buying and selling System (ETS), the world’s largest carbon market and one which of carbon permits for energy-intensive sectors, together with cement, inside the 27-nation bloc.

The World Financial institution says solely 22% of world emissions had been coated by pricing mechanisms final yr and the Worldwide Financial Fund put the common at $3 a tonne – a tiny fraction of Sweden’s carbon tax.

Whereas the Swedish courtroom’s determination was not linked to Slite’s carbon footprint, however somewhat the dangers its quarry poses to native groundwater, the affect from an emissions perspective is dependent upon the effectivity and vitality mixture of the producers more likely to provide Sweden with cement to plug any shortfalls.

Slite’s proprietor, Germany’s HeidelbergCement , additionally plans to make it the world’s first carbon impartial cement manufacturing unit by 2030, however the uncertainty over its future following the courtroom ruling might delay and even scupper the undertaking.

“We’d like a choice quickly on the long-term foundation for these operations if that isn’t to be delayed,” Magnus Ohlsson, chief government of HeidelbergCement’s Swedish subsidiary Cementa, mentioned final month.

Koen Coppenholle, head of European cement foyer group Cembureau, mentioned he was assured European vegetation had been “cleaner” general as a result of excessive EU carbon fees on producers had inspired them to spend money on lowering their emissions.

“In Europe, proper now, we’re changing 50% of our main gas wants by various fuels,” he mentioned

Reuters Graphics

In response to Cembureau knowledge, nonetheless, imports of cement from outdoors the EU have jumped by about 160% within the final 5 years, though complete volumes stay comparatively small.

However carbon leakage, the place emissions are shifted from nations with tight environmental guidelines to ones with laxer and cheaper regimes, is a matter for dozens of industries and policymakers are attempting to deal with it.

In July, the EU unveiled plans for the world’s first carbon border tax to guard European industries, together with cement, from opponents overseas whose producers produce at decrease value as a result of they don’t seem to be charged for his or her carbon output.

Europe’s cement trade helps the transfer, however warns it’s fraught with difficulties, reminiscent of the best way to measure emissions in several nations given various processes and fuels.

“In the event you impose strict necessities on CO2 and emissions, it’s a must to be sure to try this in a manner that you do not push firms outdoors the EU,” mentioned Coppenholle. “That is the entire dialogue on carbon leakage.”

For a rustic reminiscent of Sweden, which has reduce its emissions by 29% over the past three a long time, the difficulty of home motion versus international affect goes past cement.

The nation’s already low, and declining, emissions from home manufacturing dropped to simply below 60 million tonnes of carbon equal in 2018.

However in the event you measure what Swedes devour, together with items and providers produced overseas, the determine is a couple of third increased, in accordance with Statistics Sweden, which put so-called consumption-based emissions at 82 million tonnes that yr.


The native versus international perspective additionally raises questions on which kind of commercial coverage is in the end greener.

Sweden’s main metal agency SSAB , state-owned miner LKAB and utility Vattenfall, for instance, have invested closely in creating a course of to provide metal .

They are saying switching to so-called inexperienced hydrogen energy would cut back Sweden’s emissions by about 10%, an enormous step in direction of reaching the nation’s 2045 web zero emission purpose.

However for researchers Magnus Henrekson on the Analysis Institute for Industrial Economics, Christian Sandstrom at Jonkoping Worldwide Enterprise College and Carl Alm on the Ratio Institute, that is an instance of the “environmental nationalism” that advantages one nation, however not the world.

They estimate that if Sweden exported the renewable vitality it will use to make hydrogen to Poland and Germany as an alternative – so they may in the reduction of on coal-fired energy – general CO2 emissions would fall by 10 to 12 occasions greater than by making “inexperienced” metal.

The EU’s carbon border levy, in the meantime, is simply as a result of be phased in from 2026, probably too late to have a bearing on the destiny of Cementa’s Slite limestone quarry.

Sweden’s parliament has agreed to a authorities proposal to tweak the nation’s environmental legal guidelines to provide Cementa a keep of execution, however no long-term answer is in sight.

Environmentalists reminiscent of David Kihlberg, local weather head on the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, say easing rules offers industries an excuse to place off modifications that have to occur now.

“It could be extremely damaging for local weather diplomacy if Sweden got here to the highest local weather assembly in Glasgow and mentioned our local weather coverage is to extend emissions and the native environmental affect with the intention to pull the rug from below Chinese language cement producers,” he mentioned, referring to a hypothetical state of affairs that isn’t Swedish coverage.

“The local weather query is international and needs to be solved by cooperation between nations.”

Enhancing by Mark John and David Clarke


Source link

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button