To lead on climate, countries must commit to zero emissions

What does it mean for a nation to be a “climate leader” in 2018?

At the very least, it must mean having a firm plan in place to deliver your nation’s fair share of the Paris agreement. During that stunning fortnight in December 2015, 195 governments freely and willingly committed not only to keep global warming well below 2C, but to aim for the safer level of 1.5C. And they committed to bring net greenhouse gas emissions down to zero.

I cannot help but feel huge pride that my government was the first in the western world to step up and deliver on the Paris agreement. In June last year, we adopted a target of cutting Sweden’s net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2045, and we set it in law. Within a generation, Sweden will not be contributing to the problem of climate change. Science tells us that if all nations adopt this target, there is a good chance that we will live up to the commitments that we made at the Paris summit, and keep climate change within safe boundaries.

Our law does not only set an emissions target and a date. Every year the government must present a progress report to parliament, and every four years it must make a new set of policies that deliver ever-greater emission cuts. This way we will ensure that we will make steady progress towards our net-zero target.

For these ingredients of our law, we owe the UK a debt of gratitude. Ten years ago, the UK brought in the first law in the world that set a legally binding target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Sweden borrowed heavily from the UK Climate Change Act in drawing up our own, as have other countries such as Denmark and Finland.

Climate laws deliver something that in a healthy democracy is invaluable for businesses and citizens: certainty. Our companies know that fossil fuels will be virtually eliminated over the next 25 years; coal has already gone, and oil and gas will follow. Certainty helps citizens, companies, investors and the government itself to make better decisions. For example, it is clearly good sense that all new houses are built so as to waste very little energy, so eliminating the need for more expensive retro-fitting in a decade’s time.

A number of other countries have stepped up since the Paris summit by committing to net zero emissions targets by 2040 or 2050. They include France, Iceland and New Zealand – but also some developing nations such as Costa Rica and Bhutan. Driven by a progressive alliance including Sweden and the UK, the European Union is heading in the same direction. The EU parliament has already voted for a net zero target, and the commission is updating its energy and climate roadmap in line with the Paris agreement – a process which will inevitably recommend a net zero target for the EU with a target date no later than 2050.

Read More at: THE GUARDIAN