Per Bolund (Government of Sweden)

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INTERVIEW WITH Per Bolund       
(Minister for Financial Markets and consumer affairs at the Government of Sweden)

“SUSTAINABILITY: A KEY FACTOR FOR INVESTMENTS TO BE PROFITABLE IN A LONG TERM PERSPECTIVE"

Sweden is one of the leading Countries on the issue of Sustainability. It  is ranked as the Most Sustainable Country in the World according to the RobecoSAM’s Country Sustainability Ranking study. Combating climate change is one of Sweden’s top three priorities, and Sweden’s new climate change bill (February 2017) calls for a 70% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector by 2030. It is not only a question of planning…The concreteness of these planning is supported by a past of many initiatives which go in the direction of sustainability: Sweden’s shift from oil to district heating in the early 1990’s is a great example of reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions (i.g., District heating in Gothenburg); in the Umeå’s Ålidhem district, some 400 residential apartments – built in the 1960s and 1970s – have been refurbished with the goal of reducing their energy consumption by 50 per cent. These are only some of the many examples of Sweden commitment and strategy on sustainability. What makes this Country so different? What is its future strategy on sustainability? Is sustainability a burden to development? Why a Country should invest in sustainability? What kind of improvement can be done in Italy? Per Bolund, Minister for Financial Markets and Consumer Affairs at the Government of Sweden, answered these and other questions.

Per Bolund: (born 3 July 1971) is a Swedish politician. He has served as Minister for Financial Markets in the Government of Sweden since October 2014. Being devoted to Climate Change and ecological issues, Bolund was elected to the Swedish Riksdag in 2006, representing the Green Party. He serves as the Greens' spokesperson for finance policy, and is a member of the party's board of directors.

“I want Sweden to aggressively tackle the climate challenge by investing and acting in a
sustainable way, both in the financial markets and in our role as smart consumers.”
 
Per Bolund
 
 
 
INTERVIEW - (September 2017)
This interview was made in September 2017 and published in October 2017  on www.lteconomy.org  

Subject: Sustainability policies in Sweden    

(By Dario Ruggiero, Founder of Long Term Economy and Grazia Giordano (researcher and co-editor at Long Term Economy
 
 

Highlights 

  • Combating climate change is one of our top three priorities, alongside increased employment and better schools.
  • From a long-term perspective, sustainability is key for financial investments to be profitable. But also in a more short-term perspective, there is much to gain from adapting more sustainable solutions.
  • The fact that people with poorer economic conditions are not limited from higher education contributes to the social sustainability of a society, but of course there are also contributions to environmental sustainability.
  • We have already lowered the tax on repairs of different types of goods, which is a way to tackle throwaway culture by making it cheaper to repair used goods… The total budget for environmental policy is now twice the size it was before the red-green government took office. 
  • Since last year Sweden has committed to 100% renewable electricity generation in 2040… I think broad political agreements on this issue are key to create long-term conditions for the energy industry and enable a transition to a green energy system and a green economy.
  • Now that the climate agreement (Paris) is set, it is crucial that all countries implement their commitments and increase their ambitions.
  • I think most people and most governments realize that in order to be competitive in the future, sustainability issues need to be high on your agenda... 
  • If there is an interest, I am happy to work with Italian representatives at all levels to see what we can learn from each others.

 

 
Question 1: Dear Mr. Per Bolund and thank you for being with us. First, let’s start with your Country: Sweden. It is ranked as the most sustainable country in the World according to the RobecoSAM’s Country Sustainability Ranking study (http://www.robecosam.com/). What makes Sweden different from other Countries?
 
I think we have come a long way in Sweden when it comes to putting focus on sustainable solutions. The current government is also very determined in reducing climate emissions. Combating climate change is one of our top three priorities, alongside increased employment and better schools.
 
 
Question 2: Many Countries consider Sustainability as a burden on their economic goals. Are they right?
 
No, I don’t think so. From a long-term perspective, sustainability is key for financial investments to be profitable. But also in a more short-term perspective, there is much to gain from adapting more sustainable solutions. In Sweden, we see how our progress in green technology is beneficial for the country, both in terms of a more sustainable society and in increased exports. Our ambition is to export the solutions, not the emissions.
 
 
Question 3: What are the most critical research topics within the field of sustainability?
 
Since I have left the research community, I am probably not the right person to point out which topic that others should do more research one. Scientists should decide that for themselves. But there is a lot of very important research that is being done on climate change, biodiversity and other issues that are beneficial for me as a politician when shaping economic and environmental policy.
 
 
Question 4: You have reached a doctoral level studies in Department of Ecology, Environment and Plant. How important has it been in forming your thinking? Is Education a key factor in building a sustainable-minded Country? How should sustainability introduced in the education system?
 
In Sweden, university studies are free for Swedish students and students from EU countries. The fact that people with poorer economic conditions are not limited from higher education contributes to the social sustainability of a society, but of course there are also contributions to environmental sustainability. The more people who have a good education, the greater the likelihood of a fact and science based social debate which values sustainability.
 
 
Question 5: In your statement in the official website of the Sweden Government, you say: “I want Sweden to aggressively tackle the climate challenge by investing and acting in a sustainable way, both in the financial markets and in our role as smart consumers.” What kind of investments and projects are you going to launch?
 
We have already lowered the tax on repairs of different types of goods, which is a way to tackle throwaway culture by making it cheaper to repair used goods. We are also planning for the introduction of an airline climate tax to and a “bonus malus” reform for new cars, where we give a substantial bonus to people who buy climate smart cars and tax new cars with high emissions heavier than before. In addition to this, the government's budget contains several major investments in the environment, such as a local investment support for climate measures, totalling SEK 1.5 billion next year. The total budget for environmental policy is now twice the size it was before the red-green government took office.
 
 
Question 6: One of the key sectors when talking of sustainability is ‘Energy.’ Has the time of fossil-fuel energy come to an end?  What are the steps to follow by a Country to develop a zero-emission energy system?
 
Since last year Sweden has committed to 100% renewable electricity generation in 2040, which is an agreement concluded between five parties which have 75% of the seats in Parliament between them. It is the first broad agreement on energy policy in Sweden’s history that encompasses red, blue and green parties. I think broad political agreements on this issue are key to create long-term conditions for the energy industry and enable a transition to a green energy system and a green economy.
 
 
Question 7: Can you tell us what are the critical factors at play on the issue of Climate Change at an international level? What measures do you suggest to counter them?
 
When the world's countries agreed in Paris on a global action plan to limit global warming to well below two degrees Celsius, that was a truly historic event. Now that the climate agreement is set, it is crucial that all countries implement their commitments and increase their ambitions. An important factor for us to be successful in avoiding dangerous climate change is the energy system. We need to phase out our carbon dependency and fulfil the transition into a greener energy system.
 
 
Question 8: Compared to Sweden and other North-European countries, Italy’s commitment and culture on sustainability is less development. What do you suggest our country should do to implement a sustainable plan in a long term perspective? Do you think there are some margins of collaboration between Italy and Sweden on this issue?
 
I think most people and most governments realize that in order to be competitive in the future, sustainability issues need to be high on your agenda. I know there is also a great interest in sustainability in Italy as well. We have had some contact with Italian representatives, but so far only at local level. For example, the Deputy mayor of Siena in Tuscany contacted me to know more about our VAT cuts on repairs. He is running a campaign for a similar tax reform in Italy. If there is an interest, I am happy to work with Italian representatives at all levels to see what we can learn from each other.
 
 
 
 

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