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ENVIRONMENT

Court gives Swedish start-up go ahead for fossil-free steel plant

A court in Sweden has given the steel company H2 Green Steel the go ahead to start building a coal-free steel plant in northern Sweden, the first greenfield steel plant in Europe in 50 years.

Court gives Swedish start-up go ahead for fossil-free steel plant
A rendering of how the plant in Boden, northern Sweden, might look when it is complete. Photo: H2 Green Steel

Sweden’s environmental court, or Mark- och miljödomstolen, gave the company permission to start building, so long as it puts in place measures to protect the local environment and nearby communities, and also compensates for any damage done. 

“It is unavoidable that establishing such a large steel work will impact on the natural environment and that species in the local area will be affected,” the judge Katarina Brodin said in a press statement. “Such a large business is also going to impact on those living near the steel plant, both while it is being built and when it is in operation. 

But she the court ruled that the urgent need to cut carbon emissions from global steel production meant the benefits outweighed the possible impact on the local environment. 

“The Court states…that the manufacturing process entails large carbon dioxide emissions and that it is important to take measures as soon as possible to reduce these emissions globally,” it ruled. “The company’s intention to build and operate a facility for fossil-free steel production is in line with this endeavour.” 

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The company, which is headed by Henrik Henriksson, the former chief executive of the truck-maker Scania, aims to start production at the start of 2025, making it the first industrial scale hydrogen steel plant in the world.  

The plant will be built in Svartbyn, just outside the city of Boden in Norrbotten, Sweden’s most northerly county. 

The company has applied to build a plant which can produce 4.2m tonnes of hydrogen-reduced sponge iron a year, along with a hydrogen production facility which can produce 280,000 tonnes of the gas. 

The court also gave the company permission to divert and damm the Lillbäcken river, and has given it a dispensation from some requirements to protect animal and plant species.

The decision only gives the company permission to start construction at the plant. The court will now consider the company’s application to operate the plant. 

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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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