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ENVIRONMENT

Climate change on Antarctica conference agenda in Sweden

Representatives of 50 governments, researchers and experts will meet for a two-week conference in Stockholm to discuss the Antarctic, especially environmental and climate change issues, the Swedish hosts said on Tuesday.

The conference, which runs from June 6 to 17, comes amid fresh warnings from scientists about the effect of climate change on Antarctica, the fifth largest continent in the world, which contains more than 90 percent of the world’s ice.

Sweden hopes that the meeting will result in a special protocol on responsibility and insurance in the case of major accidents in the Antarctic, such as oil spills, chief organizer Folke Löfgren said at a news briefing.

Other topics are the environmental impact of increasing tourism in the Antarctic, he said.

Recognizing the special role the Antarctic plays for the world’s climate, a treaty was signed by 12 nations in 1959 stipulating that it is in “the interest of all mankind that Antarctica shall continue for ever to be used exclusively for peaceful purposes and shall not become the scene or object of international discord”.

The treaty now has 44 signatories, of which 27 are full members controlling the decision-making process.

A number of countries, including Argentina, Chile and Britain, claim territory in Antarctica as their own, but the treaty calls for sovereignty issues to be put aside, and they will not be discussed at the conference.

“That’s the beauty of the treaty. It favours cooperation, not confrontation,” Marie Jacobsson, principal legal advisor on international law in Sweden’s foreign ministry, told AFP.

Last month, scientists again sounded an alarm bell on the effect of global warming on Antarctica, saying that more than 200 coastal glaciers are in retreat because of higher temperatures.

Of the 244 marine glaciers that drain inland ice on the Antarctic peninsula, a region previously identified as vulnerable to global warming, 87 percent have fallen back over the last half century, according to research by British experts.

It is unclear whether the man-made “greenhouse effect”, caused by the burning of fossil fuels, is entirely to blame, they said.

If even a small part of this cap melts, rising sea levels could drown low-lying island states, cities and deltas, they warned.

ALMEDALEN 2022

Green Party leader: ‘Right-wing parties want to push us out of parliament’

Per Bolund, joint leader of Sweden's Green party, spoke for thirteen and a half minutes at Almedalen before he mentioned the environment, climate, or fossil fuels, in a speech that began by dwelling on healthcare, women's rights, and welfare, before returning to the party's core issue.

Green Party leader: 'Right-wing parties want to push us out of parliament'

After an introduction by his joint leader Märta Stenevi, Bolund declared that his party was going into the election campaign on a promise “to further strengthen welfare, with more staff and better working conditions in healthcare, and school without profit-making, where the money goes to the pupils and not to dividends for shareholders”. 

Only then did he mention the party’s efforts when in government to “build the world’s first fossil-free welfare state”. 

“We know that if we want welfare to work in the future, we must have an answer to our time’s biggest crisis: the threat to the environment and the climate,” he said.

“We know that there is no welfare on a dead planet. We need to take our society into a new time, where we end our dependency on oil, meet the threat to the climate, and build a better welfare state within nature’s boundaries, what we call a new, green folkhem [people’s home].” 

He presented green policies as something that makes cities more liveable, with the new sommargågator — streets pedestrianised in the summer — showing how much more pleasant a life less dependent on cars might be.  

He then said his party wanted Sweden to invest 100 billion kronor a year on speeding up the green transition, to make Sweden fossil fuel-free by 2030. 

“We talk about the climate threat because it’s humanity’s biggest challenge, our biggest crisis,” he said. “And because we don’t have much time.” 

In the second half of his speech, however, Bolund used more traditional green party rhetoric, accusing the other political parties in Sweden of always putting off necessary green measures, because they do not seem urgent now, like a middle-aged person forgetting to exercise. 

“We know that we need to cut emissions radically if we are even going to have a chance of meeting our climate goal, but for all the other parties there’s always a reason to delay,” he said. 

“We are now seeing the curtain go up on the backlash in climate politics in Sweden. All the parties have now chosen to slash the biofuels blending mandate which means that we reduce emissions from petrol and diesel step for step, so you automatically fill your tank in a greener way. Just the government’s decision to pause the  reduction mandate will increase emissions by a million tonnes next year.” 

The right-wing parties, he warned, were also in this election running a relentless campaign against the green party. 

“The rightwing parties seem to have given up trying to win the election on their own policies,” he said. “Trying to systematically push out of parliament seems to be their way of trying to take power. And they don’t seem above any means. Slander campaigns, lies, and false information have become every day in Swedish right-wing politics.” 

He ended the speech with an upbeat note. 

“A better, more sustainable world is possible. There is a future to long for. If you give us a chance then that future is much closer than you think!”

Read the speech here in Swedish and here in (Google Translated) English. 

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