The Swedish government is committed to strengthening eco-innovation, according to Elisabet Falemo, State Secretary Ministry of the Environment, and Ola Alterå, State Secretary Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications.
The government regards the development and use of good environmental technology as an important means of reducing the negative environmental impact from our consumption and production, at the same time as competitiveness and industrial growth are promoted. It is important both to increase the demand for and the supply of eco-innovations and to promote co-operation between industry, the public sector and the R&D sector.
A cost-efficient and powerful policy instrument that has been helpful in promoting a fuel switch and eco-innovation is the carbon tax that was introduced in Sweden in 1991 as a supplement to the existing system of energy taxes. The most obvious effect has been a reduction of CO2 emissions and an increased use of biomass in Swedish district heating systems.
A number of government initiatives to promote eco-innovation has been initiated for the period 2008-2010. SEK 1 billion (€0.1 billion) has been provided for major investments related to environmental and energy technologies such as market introduction of new energy-efficient technology and pilot and demonstration projects for second-generation biofuels.
A delegation for Sustainable Cities has also been appointed by the government to manage SEK 340 million (€34 million) for the development of sustainable cities, urban communities and housing areas with the aim of promoting good examples of sustainable urban development using integrated urban planning and applied environmental technology.
A programme for Environment-Driven Business Development has been established, aiming to strengthen the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The programme provides SEK 35 million (€3.5 million) in funding and focuses primarily on providing support in the commercialisation phase.
In 2008, the government presented its bill ‘A Boost for Research and Innovation’ which increased public investment in research and research-based innovation by an additional SEK 5 billion (€0.5 billion) to promote eco-innovations in fields such as energy, sustainable use of natural resources and marine environment.
Sweden has also signed several memoranda of understanding (MoUs) with other countries – such as the USA, Brazil and China – to promote environmental technology co operation.
In 2008, Swentec, the Swedish Environmental Technology Council, was commissioned by the government to develop an overarching structure for strengthening Swedish environmental technology. The Swedish ETAP National Roadmap has been a helpful tool to increase the visibility of the Swedish efforts on eco-innovation and environmental technologies with regard to the ETAP actions.
At the joint session for EU environment and energy ministers during the informal ministerial meeting in Åre in July 2009, discussions were held on the subject of ‘Enabling an Eco-efficient Economy’. A transition to an eco-efficient economy could boost long term EU competitiveness and create a significant number of business opportunities in both green and traditional sectors, as well as reducing our impact on the climate. The actions proposed in ETAP make an important contribution to this transition.
Firm action is needed by all stakeholders; not least the public sector. Energy efficiency, alternative power and transport infrastructure as well as green public procurement are examples of actions that will lay the foundation for global sustainable growth. Furthermore, the use of economic instruments, such as taxes and emissions trading, has a key role to play as it can ensure that targets are reached in a cost-effective way.
In addition, an integrated and cross-sectoral policy approach is essential to exploit synergies between different policy measures. It is therefore important to work across the boundaries of ministries, institutions and council configurations.
A large part of the solution entails switching the European economy to becoming eco-efficient. Greater competitiveness and growth are to be achieved while creating a sustainable energy supply, making efficient use of resources and meeting our climate targets and environmental objectives. However, to promote new and smarter technologies is good but not enough. More efforts must be made to accelerate the implementation and use of new technologies.
The future EU strategy on growth and employment – the successor to the Lisbon strategy post-2010 – should be more focused and tackle the great challenges of the future, i.e. the changeover to an eco-efficient economy; to strengthen the global competitiveness of the European Union; to counter the effects of an ageing population; and to restore sustainable public finances. We believe that the strategy should have a clear focus on research, innovation, development and the deployment of new products and services contributing to an eco-efficient economy.
Reaching an international agreement on climate change in Copenhagen in December 2009 is also an important step to create the necessary long-term market conditions to accelerate the transition and for business to capitalize on eco-efficient products and services.
Swedish Ministry of the Environment:
Swedish Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications:
‘The Delegation for Sustainable Cities’:
Swedish Environmental Technology Council (Swentec):
http://swentec.se/ Swedish ETAP national roadmap: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/ecoap/pdfs/roadmaps/sweden_en.pdf [306 KB]