Sweden’s work for a green recovery from the COVID-19 crisis

Published 3 September 2020 in:

Mattias Frumerie, Sweden’s Head of Delegation.

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit the world severely, causing pain and suffering to millions of people. But could it have positive consequences – for the environment and the climate – and therefore for people? “The chance to make the world economy greener is in our hands”, says Mattias Frumerie, Sweden’s Head of Delegation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

Governments around the world have allocated USD 10 000 billion for the COVID-19 recovery, according to the International Monetary Fund.

“A green recovery means making sure this money is invested in the most climate-friendly way possible. We have the chance to accelerate implementation of both the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda.”

These are the words of Mattias Frumerie, Sweden’s Head of Delegation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

“But there is also a risk,” he cautions. “If we fail to channel these massive investments into green measures, and keep investing in fossil jobs and technologies, we could end up emerging from the COVID-19 pandemic in an even worse state in terms of the climate crisis.”

Mattias says the coming months will tell how well countries are able to intensify their implementation of the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda.

“For governments, budget and fiscal measures are at the heart of the recovery. Countries need to mainstream climate action in their national budgets and planning processes. But there is also scope for developing regulatory frameworks to facilitate the transition.”

A number of initiatives were launched at the UN Climate Action Summit last year. “These are well worth following up,” says Mattias Frumerie.

“It’s also encouraging to see private sector commitment, from both individual companies and whole sectors. And, of course, we give our full support to the UN Secretary-General’s team in making sure we all deliver on our commitments.”

”We should not forget that many of the policies needed for a green transition had already been developed before the pandemic took hold.”

Internationally, there’s a vast toolbox of policy options to draw from. The Swedish Carbon Tax, for example, introduced in 1991, continues to be the cornerstone of the economic instruments addressing carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels in sectors outside the EU Emissions Trading scheme.

“From a Swedish perspective, we’ve been happy to see how quickly the concepts of a green recovery and ‘building back better and greener’ have gained traction over the past couple of months. EU leaders have given a clear signal that the EU Green Deal and other green measures must be part of the recovery plan for the Union.”

Although many countries, organisations and companies have declared their green recovery ambitions, action needs to be accelerated.

“The Japanese initiative to launch a virtual platform is therefore very welcome in this respect. It will give countries an easy way to share their best practices, and we’re happy to share Swedish examples on the platform,” says Mattias.

Sweden is also working with its Nordic neighbours to support efforts to build back better and greener in developing countries and is supporting the United Kingdom’s COP26 Presidency next year by highlighting how greening the recovery can help accelerate climate action globally.

A green recovery could ultimately mean a healthy recovery from the COVID-19 global health crisis. “What’s good for the health of the planet is usually good for people’s health, too,” says Mattias.

He provides two examples: “Sustainable food systems can contribute to better health and limit the negative impacts of the food industry on the climate and the environment at the same time. Similarly, protecting biodiversity creates more resilient ecosystems, which could be crucial in the prevention of future pandemics.”

Individually, people have a role to play, too.

“Each of us can add our voice to the call for a green and healthy recovery,” says Mattias.

“The pain and suffering caused by the pandemic have forced us to rethink our ways of working and living. Those of us with the luxury of being able to choose how we live and work have a chance of contributing to the green transition.”

“As a global community, we will emerge from this crisis stronger and more resilient.