Published 2019-10-07

This post is also available in Swedish

‘The technology for fossil freedom exists, but not much is happening’

Hello Lars Zetterberg, Programme Director of Mistra Carbon Exit, whose mission is to pave the way for Sweden to meet the goal of becoming carbon-neutral in 2045. How’s the work going?

The good news is that almost all the technology is available today. And although it’s expensive for some of the players, the cost isn’t so high if you spread it throughout society. We’ve shown that in our technical work packages in the programme. The bad news is that we’ve known about much of this for years without much happening.

What’s the difficulty?

There are many hurdles to overcome, big and small. For example, there’s no business model for building climate neutrality. It gets a bit more expensive and why would anyone want to do it? In the same way, there’s resistance to leaving your own car behind and carpooling or travelling by public transport — although it turns out that if you’ve tried it once, it’s much easier.

Mistra Carbon Exit is now entering its third year. What’s happening in the programme now?

The great thing is that a lot of results are starting to fall into place; not least our latest conference shows this. It’s partly a matter of the technical roadmaps, where we’ve come quite a long way, but there are also interesting results from behavioural studies.

And there’s one thing we added to the programme: how will adaptation affect other environmental factors?

What do you mean?

The climate adaptation we’re preparing for now will take place in 25 years’ time. It’s going to put pressure at a range of points in society and the environment. Some things will improve, like maybe we’ll get better urban air. But we must be aware that it can have a negative impact on natural environments. We’ll need to lay pipes through sensitive areas, for example. It may not be possible to avoid that, but we must be aware that it happens and how.

The EU was a current theme during the conference. Why was that?

Mistra Carbon Exit is, above all, a national programme focusing on Sweden’s efforts and climate goals. But Sweden isn’t living in a bubble, and what’s happening in the EU is important. Half of our emissions are subject to EU legislation. I also think Sweden has a role to play in showing how to achieve this kind of adaptation and speed up the EU’s work that way. In certain areas we’re leading the way, but not in everything.

During the conference, a view was expressed that Sweden’s a forerunner where we have better prospects than other countries. But where we don’t have them, aren’t we a forerunner there too?

That’s interesting. Sweden has a favourable position. We have hydropower, nuclear power and forest resources. On the other hand, we have heavy industry: steel, cement, paper… But it’s true, maybe we congratulate ourselves a bit too much. Where we have the same prospects as others, it’s far from certain that we’re top of the class.

Next year, Mistra Carbon Exit will have its mid-term review. What’s on the agenda?

It’ll be important for us to show how we can combine behaviour, policy instruments and technology. That’s the combination that makes the programme exciting. If we can link our technical work packages with the necessary policy instruments and how they affect people’s behaviour, then we’ve come up with something truly new.

We’ve also chosen to see the adaptation through a value-chain perspective, which is another novelty. It includes early research in the value chain to produce new materials or investment support. Carbon pricing may be an option, so that consumers eventually make climate-friendly choices, or large procurement organisations like the Swedish Transport Administration make climate-neutrality a requirement.