The Swedish Social Democratic Party
The Congress for Jobs October 28th – November 1st 2009
Climate policy from threats to opportunities
Speech by Lena Hallengren
Chairman, members of Congress, guests, ladies and gentlemen, I would first like to thank everyone who has been involved in the working group on Climate for an incredibly good job and hope that you who were not involved in the working group will feel that we present a good paper for discussion and debate.
It is twelve years since we had the Congress in Sundsvall that was in 1997. Then it was Anna Lindh who moved on the subject of sustainable development. She began by looking out over Congress and noting that we had Nalin Baksis children - now Nalin Pekul - and Birgitta Dahl's granddaughter. Now it's Helene Fritzon’s son who is running around and also Mattias Vepsä daughter is here. This time too we are reminded of whom we actually write our guidelines for. I feels that most when talking about the climate.
What separates then from now is that a decade has passed and that today we can see clearly the effects of climate change. According to the UN Climate Panel for the Himalayan glaciers will have diminished by as much as 80 percent in the next 20 years. Sea levels are rising. It affects both those who live in Karlstad, and those living in the Maldives.
The Russian tundra thaws slowly and releases the greenhouse gas methane. Weather conditions are becoming more extreme. We see how the number of people forced to flee because of the climate changes increases.
All these things hang together. Over the last hundred years the earth's average temperature has risen by about three-quarters of a degree. This changes the conditions under which we can live our lives. If the temperature continues to rise in line with current trends, our children will experience very different living conditions. It will have serious consequences for life on earth.
For all this we share responsibility. All of us have everything to gain by quickly and effectively tackling climate threat. One cannot emphasize enough that there is no contradiction between growth and reduced emissions. As many say there can be both winners and losers in the short term.
For those industrial countries that all too one sided have built their prosperity on fossil fuels, this journey will be both longer and more demanding. Among countries that have just seen their economies bloom and sees poverty being reduced very slowly there is concern that the conversion will hinder industrial development and the much-needed welfare development.
But Sweden, my friends, does not belong to any of these categories of countries. Instead, we can show the world that there is no contradiction between the green shift and high growth. We can demonstrate international solidarity and also send a very clear signal that we in the rich world have a very special responsibility.
Sweden has namely all the prerequisites to become an international role model. We have natural resources. We can obtain biomass from the forest and convert it into renewable energy. Sparse and windswept parts of our country can suddenly find themselves at the center of attention when wind power is gains ground. We see rivers that endlessly and powerfully continue to flow. We also have the education, the technical conditions and also an economy that is capable of making use of all this.
And we have something special, something that does not exist in any other country, namely a united labor movement. I would say that a critical success factor is the long tradition of the Swedish trade union movement in being positive to change and development rather than clinging to things as they are.
There is a clear recognition that the long-term interests of the members are best served when they are actively involved in the change process. But in the meantime, there must be economic security. There must be an opportunity for education so that those who lose their jobs can get a new start.
An insecure and unjust Sweden will not have the courage to face the future. When concerns about how to cope the day you become ill or unemployed, or if grandmother does not get the care she needs, or if the school faces cuts get the upper hand then the threat to our climate risks becoming a secondary matter, to something that simply drowns in everyday concerns.
Friends! Mona said in her opening speech something I would like to repeat: The change in climate policy must also be red.
Do you know that the richest tenth in the world with their petrol-guzzling SUVs and their overseas holidays and with high energy consuming gadgets and spacious living accounts for about 20 percent of climate emissions?
That we must bear in mind when choosing courses of action. Measures and response must be distributed equitably both in international efforts on climate policy as well as here at home. Even if we are prepared to stand in the absolute forefront of the climate policy process it must be absolutely clear that we will never accept a shift that has adverse effects in terms of redistribution. For this reason we will invest in public transport and support for the conversion of passenger cars. This gives everyone a chance to change the transport system.
With state investment subsidies we will provide a stimulus to a green transformation of the socially vulnerable million homes estates. By expanding college education we will provide increased opportunities to work on and to develop the new green knowledge-intensive jobs. Through increased opportunities for training we will create a safe bridge between the old and the new. We guarantee that the greens policies in Swedish politics are also red policies.
Friends! Before the election, when the algal bloom appeared in the sea and this coincided with Almedalsveckan Fredrik Reinfeldt said: That goo has been out there other summers, but not blown into the beaches. It is clear that the problem gets bigger when it comes to our beaches.
It’s three years since he said that. Now, the goo has washed ashore on Reinfeldt's own beach.
It is quite obvious that the conservative-led government has turned a blind eye to the scale of the challenges that face us. The environment and the climate will never be a priority for the Conservatives. We will continue to see Fredrik Reinfeldt adjust their rhetoric to the prevailing public opinion. But when it comes to taking political action to push development in the right direction, the Moderate Party’s environmental and climate policies will echo as empty as usual.
We see that the Government is happy to demonstrate Swedish success in the ability to combine a reduction in emissions with accelerated growth. They speak enthusiastically for the success of carbon taxes. As Prime Minister and Chairman of the EU Reinfeldt rarely misses a chance to talk about just that. But when it comes to concrete actions, the environment and climate, the efforts are meager.
Now they reduce investment in climate-smart railways. The government has phased out the state climate investment program. They have given the green light to Swedish uranium mining. They have cut support for organic agriculture. Next year the carbon tax will be cut by one öre. The list can be longer.
You can compare that to a doctor with a similar attitude towards his jobs and who uninterested notes that the patient is ill, probably very ill, then leans back slightly, yawns a little and prescribes a headache tablet and self-healing, and then lamely waves the patient back out to the waiting room.
Anything like that would never be acceptable in health care. It is equally unacceptable when it comes to climate policy. Neither the patient nor the environment will survive treatment like that.
Friends! Concrete actions at home must naturally be matched with international cooperation. There are those who doubt whether it is reasonable that Sweden should take the lead in the climate shift and question our little country's role in global processes. But as a small country on Europe's periphery, we have already played an important role in the global environment and climate work. It is almost 40 years ago since Olof Palme arranged the Stockholm Conference. Kjell Larsson played a crucial role in the negotiations behind the Kyoto Protocol. Göran Persson's Oil Commission and the target of making Sweden independent of fossil fuels led to a reaction from many rulers around the world.
So we have taken a lead before, and we will continue to do so. But then Sweden must belong to those countries that continue to take somewhat untried and slightly shaky steps into the new, sustainable society. We have taken a lead and are sure that it is the old technology, not the new, that threatens jobs. We have shown that leadership is not pretty words but action and political courage.
If it is properly shaped the transition process will lead to new jobs and higher growth. The Swedish companies that develop the first fossil-free technologies that the world will demand in the future will be best placed to strengthen their international competitiveness. The companies that invest in energy efficiency gain cost advantages over their competitors. If we design support for the Swedish industry's transformation in the right way, this shift is not a cost but rather an opportunity for growth, future jobs and higher profits, because climate and environmental policies go hand in hand.
But Sweden as one of the most sparsely populated countries in Europe and with cities and regions that as a whole are quite small in an international perspective, needs to be built together to meet with global competition. It is urgent that we create larger and more powerful industrial regions. The railways play a key role in this process.
Friends! Let me conclude by saying that the debate over climate change often revolves round politics at a high level. We place too often, I'd probably still say, our faith in summits and international agreements - often rightly so. We know that we cannot avoid threats to our climate without intense cooperation across national borders. So the Copenhagen meeting must be a success. But no international treaty in the world can survive without popular support. So, each of us has a responsibility.
The journey towards the sustainable society can start in the glow of international limelight, but it needs to be carried through you and me. Everything we do in the right direction plays a role. It may be the choice of electricity suppliers or when we stand in front of a shelf in a shop, or are in two minds about whether we should take the car or bus.
It is time for us to move forward. Let this Congress demonstrate just who make up Sweden’s biggest green party.