California and Sweden: A Coalition of the Willing

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In the Road to 2045 series, Swedish Press explores climate change issues in Sweden and how the country deals with this major challenge. Swedish Press has entered into a collaboration with Forum for Reforms, Entrepreneurship and Sustainability (Fores) who are experts in this area. In the coming months you will see updates on activities and regulations in Sweden, case studies on interesting companies, and interviews with leading climate profiles.

 

California and Sweden: A Coalition of the Willing

By JakobLagercrantz

 

California and Sweden are held up as examples of clean development, with a sustained  rapid industrial development. In this third article from the Swedish 2030-secretariat we look at some of the differences, as well as some common denominators. 

 

Growth and environmental development

In the aftermath of the Second World War, the Californian economy grew rapidly. Already in 1947 Los Angeles was one of the most polluted cities in the USA, and a few years later the scientific evidence indicated that cars were the main culprit. The Californian Air Resource Board was founded, with the specific task to clear the air in California.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Sweden was entering the world stage as an economic example. The Keynesian policies of the 1940’s and 50’s helped transform Sweden from one of the poorest countries in Europe to an industrial power. In the 1960’s the acute acidification of Swedish lakes triggered campaigns to decrease air pollution drifting in primarily from abroad.

California and Sweden have chosensome different paths to promote green development in the transport sector, with long term political visions remaining a common denominator.

 

Long term political policy

The Californian Air Resources Board  (CARB) was founded in 1967, under the then Governor, Ronald Reagan. CARB reports directly to the Governor, and was tasked to improve air quality in Californian cities. This led to the most stringent car emission standards in the US.

Since then, California has seen a series of innovative and mostly market driven approaches to promote clean technologies. The Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) mandate, introduced in the 1990’s, forced car manufacturers to either produce a certain share of zero emission vehicles for the Californian market, or buy credits from other successful companies. Tesla and Nissanhave benefited by selling their surplus ZEV credits, giving these two companies a well-deserved financial boost. In the early 2000’s the Low Carbon Fuels Standard (LCFS) was introduced by the then Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, mandating that all fuels must be certified for its fossil carbon content. This allows for a trade where the most efficient companies, with a large renewable share, get to sell credits to fossil fuel companies with little development. CARB sets up the playing field, but the companies negotiate the price.

Sweden entered the global environmental scene by hosting the first UN Conference on Environment and Development in 1972. The preparatorywork for the conference had a strong impact on authorities, and helped create a long term foundation for continued green technology development. Acidification of the lakes created a bottom up approach to environmental development. Then came the energy crisis. The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) decided in 1974 to increase the price of oil drastically. Sweden was at the time totally dependent on imported oil, and certainly the most dependent per capita. A decision was made by both businesses and politicians to promote an alternative, fossil free development. In just thirty years the dependency on fossil fuels in industry and housing has almost disappeared.

Sweden is now doing the same for transport, with legislation passed in June 2017 setting a target of 70 % CO2 reduction by 2030.

California and Sweden can boost strong political leadership, but it would have come to nothing without a large number of committed companies taking advantage of a budding clean technology market.

The 2030-secretariat and its partners in California, China and Germany are building coalitions of willing parties who believe that there are opportunities in green visions. This Coalition of the Willing is spearheaded by Californian and Swedish developments.

 

Fores is a Swedish think tank devoted to questionsrelated to climate and environment, migration and integration, entrepreneurship and economic reforms, as well as the digital society.

 

Image courtesy: Tesla