Published 2018-02-27

This post is also available in Swedish

Fossil-free target for Mistra Carbon Exit

The Mistra Carbon Exit programme has now begun in earnest. Five case studies and five work packages have started, their aim being to contribute to a fossil-free Sweden by 2045. Active participation in public debate is equally important.

It will soon be a year since Mistra Carbon Exit started. Much of the initial period has been spent shaping the team and initiating the various components of the programme. Given the 30-odd participants, this took time.

‘Now we’re up and running,’ says Lars Zetterberg, Programme Manager.

One of the major tasks in the autumn was to produce nine messages on which the programme will be based. These are:

  • Reaching the Paris climate target requires transformative changes.
  • Restructuring basic industry for near-zero emissions causes only a slight rise in prices of end products.
  • Carbon pricing needs to be supplemented with other policy instruments.
  • We need to develop completely new control systems and business models.
  • The restructuring must not be at the expense of other sustainability targets.
  • Public purchasers can impose climate requirements in procurement.
  • The municipalities have much to gain from green transport plans.
  • Self-driving and electric vehicles may fundamentally transform how we travel.
  • Connections with the transport and industrial sectors afford more flexibility for a renewable electric power system.

In parallel, the programme’s ten subprojects have taken shape and started. Five are industrial case studies, while five are academic work packages.

‘Our case study on construction and infrastructure has advanced the furthest. They’ve already had two major meetings with all participants. The task now is to develop a roadmap for how the sector can achieve zero emissions by 2045.’

The working group is currently analysing which technological development paths exist and considering which policy instruments are required to achieve the target. This work is to be completed during the year.

Work is also proceeding in the transport sector. For example, a workshop has been held to identify how the sector can attain zero emissions. The programme already serves as a resource for the Government and agencies in terms of overarching issues. Lars Zetterberg and his colleagues have been engaged, for example, to analyse the changes under way in European emissions trading.

‘The strength of Mistra’s initiatives, both past and present, is that they’ve enabled us to establish a successful group in this policy area. And that’s contributed to Sweden’s great competence in this field.’

There are also corresponding networks in technology sectors. Almost all major industrial stakeholders are involved in the programme.

‘We’re lacking some important parties in the consortium, including the Swedish National Board of Housing, Building and Planning (Boverket). If there’s anyone missing in the working groups, we try to include everyone who can contribute something.’

Mistra Carbon Exit has also recruited five PhD students: three at Chalmers University of Technology, one at the University of Gothenburg and one at DIW Berlin (the German Institute for Economic Research).

The Board is also in place. The Chair is Peter Nygårds, who has broad experience from the worlds of both politics and government agencies.

‘Peter’s great experience gives security to the programme. We’ve also put together a good Board with representatives from agencies, the municipal sector and business. But we’re keen to add one or two people from industry, preferably from the construction sector, and if possible from one of our Nordic neighbours.’

The current Board members are:

  • Peter Nygårds
  • Birgitta Resvik, Fortum
  • Erik Eriksson, Swedish Energy Agency
  • Stefan Nyström, Swedish Environmental Protection Agency
  • Anna Ledin, City of Gothenburg.

Although the programme has only recently gained momentum, researchers and programme management are already active in the media and in debates.

‘We can’t sit and wait for research results to be ready before we begin communicating. So, right from the start, we’re trying to get a name for ourselves. This way, we hope to make future users of our results aware of our existence now.’

An example of how the programme works actively to convey its thoughts and results is a recent opinion piece (in Swedish) in Dagens Nyheter, by Lars Zetterberg and Svante Axelsson jointly. In it, they describe the future implications of the EU’s decision to reform emissions trading. For example, local environmental action will play a major part in rapidly reducing global carbon dioxide emissions.

The background of the opinion piece is that, after two years of negotiation, the European Commission, the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers recently agreed on how to reform emissions trading. One important step is Europe’s planned cut in emission allowances by 2.2 per cent per year, which means lowering the emission ceiling at a faster pace.

Another is the introduction of a mechanism that automatically annuls emission allowances.

Lars Zetterberg and Svante Axelsson argue in their article that no climate decision of this importance has ever received so little attention in the past.

Facts about Mistra Carbon Exit
Backing the programme is an international consortium of universities, research institutes, agencies and some 20 companies (including Volvo, Skanska and Danske Bank). The goal is, in the next four years, to identify solutions needed to bring Sweden’s net greenhouse gas emissions down to zero by 2045. Mistra is investing SEK 56 million of the programme’s total budget of SEK 81.9m, the remainder being from participating organisations.