Royal interest in sustainability and the climate

IVA projects “Resource Effectiveness and the Circular Economy” and “Climate Crossroads” joined forces recently to arrange a high-level seminar on sustainability at the Bernadotte Library in the Royal Palace. In the presence of Their Royal Majesties The King and Queen and Their Royal Highnesses Crown Princess Victoria and Prince Daniel, a number of speakers talked about how Sweden can help to promote climate benefits and contribute to resource effectiveness around the world.

In particular, speakers highlighted the great success of the landfill ban and CHP plants in Sweden as a significant export opportunity to share system and technology expertise. Peter Carlsson, CEO of Northvolt, also described how his company is currently constructing an enormous battery factory in Skellefteå, which also has the potential to be a great environmental technology export success for Sweden.

“We are currently building the first factory which will be ready for production at the end of 2021 and will support the transition to 300,000 electric-powered vehicles a year. We already have orders worth SEK 130 billion,” said peter Carlsson.

HM the King provided a broad view of Swedish accomplishments over the years thanks to cooperation and technical expertise:

“Just look at the history of Swedish engineering sciences – it’s a history of exceptional individuals and ideas; of constant innovation and development. A history to be proud of,” said HM the King in his opening speech at the event.

Before an audience that included foreign, Swedish accredited diplomats, the invited speakers talked about how Sweden has succeeded in turning the challenges of waste and energy demand into resources and important additional energy.

“If we look at waste as refuse, the next question is: How do we get rid of it? This is how the question is framed in the vast majority of nations in the world,” said Klas Gustafsson, Vice President of Tekniska verken in Linköping.

In places like Linköping they are instead making use of waste – from households as well as other places like abattoirs – and processing it into methane gas, and soon also liquid biogas and biofertilizer. Many of the projects attracted a lot of attention from international delegations visiting Stockholm.

“But the most interesting thing was when we took them to recycling centres and they saw for themselves how Swedish people sort their waste into different containers. They asked if it was illegal not to sort waste and how much Swedes get paid for sorting their waste!” said Klas Gustafsson.

Moderator Johan Kuylenstierna, Vice Chairman of the Swedish Climate Policy Council, added that what often impresses visitors is that adults are sorting waste voluntarily without being forced to do it.

“In just 20 years we have gone from depositing much of our household waste in landfills to today when less than 1 percent goes there,” explained Birgitta Resvik, former Vice President of energy company Fortum.

In other words, Sweden has shown the world that it is possible to turn significant challenges into opportunities. We have great export potential in terms of actual products but also systems and political mechanisms.

The needs are huge in many industries. One example is the textile industry, an area highlighted by Filippa K’s former Sustainability Director Elin Larsson:

“We don’t design for circularity today at all; we need to think about that right from the drawing board stage. Producing one kilo of fabric, for example, uses 5,000–30,000 litres of water, 1–6.5 kilos of chemicals, around 10–30 kilos of carbon dioxide and 7 kilos of oil,” said Elin Larsson.

Another sector with significant problems to tackle is the plastics industry:

“Of all the plastic waste in the oceans today, 2 percent comes from Europe and the USA, while 98 percent comes from the rest of the world, including Asia.

“The infrastructure for waste management is not there yet,” says Magnus Huss, Director General and Vice President of IKEM.

This is also the case in numerous other industry sectors, as well as households around the world.

“We need a competitive transformation of industry and the transport system; we need a circular system for plastics and textiles, and we need to reduce food waste,” said IVA’s Chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg in a broad account of the great challenges.

This requires a lot of society and industry going forward and goes far beyond what we are used to doing to tackle various problems. This was pointed out by, among others, Professor Björn-Ola Linnér, climate policy researcher at Linköping University:

“It’s important in this context to make a distinction between transition and transformation. Transition just means a shift from one area to another, e.g. from fossil energy to renewables. Transformation involves a more profound change that runs through all levels of society.

This type of societal reform requires sweeping control mechanisms – especially economic ones. This was brought up by Klas Eklund, Senior Economist at Mannheimer Swartling Advokatbyrå.

“Economists like me want to propose taxing behaviour that harms the environment and subsidising behaviour that is good for the environment. We could use taxes, but we could also use emissions trading and sometimes regulation as well,” said Eklund.

Efforts to achieve a climate-neutral, resource-effective world will continue. IVA and the many participants hope that the seminar at the Palace demonstrated that Sweden is playing a clear role in the transformation process.

Contact information

Ann Brunnberg
Chief Communications Officer
Phone +46 72 077 38 08