As spokesperson for Sweden’s third largest party, and as a representative for the growing global Green political movement, I would like to wish you a pleasant and fruitful visit to Sweden on September 4-5th.
The Swedish Green Party welcomes the talks that you and Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt will hold on climate change, one of the world’s greatest challenges. We sincerely hope that the talks will be constructive. Your leadership could give a long-awaited breakthrough.
As the water rose outside New York barely a year ago, many people in Sweden followed the developments with great concern. Shortly thereafter, reports came from Bangladesh about the second major flooding in a short time, leaving large tracts under water and killing hundreds of people.
These events underline the seriousness of climate change: they are the kind of extreme weather events that scientists warn us will become more and more frequent as emissions from human activities are changing the global climate.
As you are well aware, greenhouse gas emissions need to be massively reduced in the years to come. The negotiations for a new global climate agreement have so far led to frustratingly insufficient results. The world’s governments act as if they were in a chicken race, hoping someone else will give in first, hoping to win by waiting until someone else leads the way. Instead of dealing with the problems here and now, they seem to hope that someone else will do something somewhere else.
If we are to break this deadlock, someone needs to take the lead and, through their own actions, show others that it is possible.
As the leader of one of the world’s most powerful and wealthy countries, you have a special responsibility to show global leadership. American action influences the rest of the world and the global economy. Therefore, it is good news that American emissions are starting to decrease, thanks to action taken both at federal and state level. At the same time, the emissions from your country – as for many other rich countries – are way above what is globally sustainable.
The rich part of the world has twin responsibilities in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
We have agreed to reduce our emissions to globally sustainable levels, and to fund the adaptation and mitigation efforts that are needed in the poorer parts of the world. So far, we have not delivered on either of these promises. If our countries started to fulfil our obligations, we would give a well-needed injection to international climate negotiations and at the same time help reduce tensions in the world.
Now is the time to act. We hope that you and Mr. Reinfeldt will discuss how our countries can deepen our cooperation on climate issues, and ensure that the ambitions you expressed in your latest climate speech become a reality. Together, the USA and Sweden also have an opportunity to push other rich countries to speed up their emission reductions and increase funding for international climate action, first and foremost in poor countries.
In the talks, three issues should be at the forefront:
1. Financing global climate action
Climate change is already a reality and has worsened conditions for many poor people. At the same time, poverty reduction requires the provision of more energy to the poorest, which in turn necessitates an expansion of renewable energy. We who live in the rich countries have promised to fund international climate efforts with $100 billion annually, in addition to already agreed levels of development assistance.
But neither Sweden nor the USA has lived up to repeated promises. The fund created for transferring money is still in the starting blocks. There are plenty of climate projects that need funding, but there is no money. We need to start filling the Green Fund with new funds which have not been taken from development assistance. And we need to take a stand on future funding from other sources, such as a tax on international financial transactions or international transports.
2. Bindings commitments to decrease emissions
Global emissions are constantly increasing despite the need for a rapid decrease. This is basically due to the fact that the world’s governments believe they can gain from waiting. Therefore, promises are made conditional – we will only decrease our emissions if you do so, we will only help out with funding if you do, and so on.
This attitude is costing the planet. We must break this deadlock by acting instead of blaming others for their passiveness. Both our countries have promised to decrease emissions, but the goals are insufficient, often filled with loopholes, and the commitments are not binding. Our countries should ensure each other that we will start decreasing emissions for real and show it by making binding commitments in national legislation.
3. Cooperation on 100 percent renewable energy
Renewable energy is the future. Part of the recent reductions of emissions in Europe and the USA depend on a transformation from one kind of fossil energy with high emissions, for example coal, to another form of fossil fuel with lower emissions, for example shale gas. This is a dead end.
If we replace fossils fuels with other fossil fuels, we will only be able to make a limited reduction of emissions, to a level that is still far too high. Fossil fuels need to be replaced by renewable energy. This energy transformation will create many well-needed jobs. It is time to make the ongoing – and successful – green tech cooperation between our countries more ambitious.
Cooperation on these issues can show that our countries are serious about managing the climate. We know it is not easy. Many would say that it is impossible. But what are the alternatives? We hope and trust that America, as well as Sweden, would rather make a serious effort than give up.
American and Swedish climate policies have thus far been inadequate, both to achieve necessary reductions of our own emissions and to break the deadlock in the international arena. We hope that our two countries could be a driving force in bringing about the global action that the peoples of the world are longing for. We wish you and Fredrik Reinfeldt a fruitful meeting.
Spokesperson for the Swedish Green Party and PhD International Environmental Law.