How green champion Sweden could end up up export its carbon sins

  • Court ruling threatens Sweden’s largest cement factory
  • Any closure could lead import with higher carbon cost
  • ‘Carbon Leak’ and issue for leaders at COP26 in Glasgow
  • Local green goals can be at odds with global goals

STOCKHOLM, Oct. 18 (Reuters) – When a Swedish court ordered the country’s largest cement maker to shut down met mining limestone through his huge factory on the windswept island of Gotland to prevent pollution, ecologists applauded.

In addition to protecting animals in wildlife and the water supply, the statement could be: force the plant die 75% makes of The cement of Sweden and that of the country second largest carbon emitter to reduce output while finding raw materials elsewhere, of even shut all together.

That could be good for Sweden’s emissions targets, but not so good news for the rest of the planet.

AN government-report in command seen by Reuters said it could force Sweden imports cement from countries die pump out more emissions in the total production process – of risk huge job loss in the construction sector at home.

“Import from countries outside the EU would probably lead to greater environmental impacts as a result of lower standards met regarding CO2 emissions and lower standards in land- use”the report, obtained” via a freedom of information request, said.

Sweden’s dilemma summarizes one the challenges facing meet nations in Glasgow for the UN COP26 climate talks: how until show they are not cutting emissions by simply the problem elsewhere – a phenomenon known as “carbon leakage”.

A rich, stable Scandinavian democracy, Sweden has long reached the top international environment rankings and managed to cut back on greenhouse gases for year met preservation of economic growth on An path to his goal of net zero emissions by 2045.

It has the world’s highest Carbon tax of $137 per ton and is a leader in the use of renewable energy. In 2018, CO2 emissions per head was at 3.5 ton, well below the European Union average of 6.4 ton, according to data from the World Bank.

But the standingoff over the Slite cement plant embodies the growing tension between local environment goals and the 2015 Paris Agreement signed by nearly 200 countries try to limit global warm up to 1.5 degrees.

“We Must Weigh” up the global focus – doing the most for the climate – but also maintain our high ambitions when it comes to our local environment problems, “Sweden Minster for Environment and climate, Per Bolund told Reuters. “These two things can in be brought into balance.”


A lot of of Europe’s imported cement comes from Turkey, Russia, Belarus and countries in North-Africa.

they have nothing like the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS), the worldthe largest carbon market and one Which put the price of carbon permits for energy-intensive industries, including cement, within the bloc of 27 countries.

The World Bank says only 22% of global emissions were covered by pricing mechanisms last year and the International Monetary Fund estimated the average global price of carbon for $3 per ton – a small fraction of Swedish carbon tax. read more

While the Swedish court decision was not linked to Slite’s carbon footprint, but rather to the risks die the quarry constitutes for the local groundwater, the impact of an emission point of view depends on the efficiency and energy mix of the producers die likely to deliver to Sweden with cement to make up for any shortages.

The owner of Slite, the German HeidelbergCement (HEIG.DE), also plans to make it world’s first CO2-neutral cement factory in 2030, but the uncertainty over to be future after the court decision, the project.

“We need An decision soon on the long-term base for these operations if not postponed,” said Magnus Ohlsson, chief executive of HeidelbergCement’s Swedish subsidiary Cementa, said: last month.

Koen Coppenholle, head of European cement lobby group Cembureau, said he was sure that European factories over were generally “cleaner” due to the high CO2 emissions in the EU on producers had encouraged them to invest in reduce their emissions.

“In Europe, we are currently replacing 50% of our primary fuel needs through alternative fuels,” he said

Reuters Graphics

However, according to data from Cembureau, import is of cement of outside the EU is met up about 160% in the last five years, though total volumes remain relatively small.

But carbon leakage, where emissions are shifted from countries with tight environment rules to those with lax and cheaper regimes, is a issue for tens of industries and policy makers are trying to address it.

In July, the EU plans for the world’s first carbon limit tax to protect European industries, including cement, from: competitors in abroad whose manufacturers produce at lower prices cost because they don’t in be charged for their carbon emissions.

The European cement industry supports the move, but warns that it is loaded with difficulties, such as how measuring emissions in different countries given different processes and fuels.

“If you impose strict” requirements on You have to make CO2 and emissions sure you do that in An way that you don’t push companies outside the EU,” said Coppenholle. “That’s the whole discussion on carbon leakage.”

For a country like Sweden, those are emissions met 29% has reduced over the last three decades, the issue of domestic action versus global impact goes beyond cement.

The countries already low, and declining, emissions from domestic production fell to just less than 60 million ton of carbon equivalent in 2018.

But if you measure what Swedes consume, including goods and services die in are produced abroad, the figure is about a third higher, according to Statistics Sweden, that the so-called consumption-based emissions at 82 million ton darling year.


The local versus global perspective also raises questions over what type? of industrial policy is greener in the end.

Sweden’s leading steel company SSAB (SSABa.ST), state mining company LKAB and utility company Vattenfall, for for example, have invested heavily in developing a process to produce steel without using fossil fuels. read more

Switch to so-called green hydrogen, they say power would reduce Sweden’s emissions met about 10%, a big step on the way to reaching 2045. of the country net zero emissions goal.

But for researchers Magnus Henrekson of the Research Institute for Industrial Economics, Christian Sandstrom at Jonkoping International Business School and Carl Alm at the Ratio Institute, this is an example of the “environmental nationalism” that benefits one country, but not the world.

They estimate that if Sweden exported the renewable energy, it would use making hydrogen to Poland and Germany instead – so they could cut back on coal-fired power – total CO2 emissions would met 10 to 12 . valleys times more then by making “green” steel.

The EU’s CO2 border tax is only being phased in the meantime in from 2026, possibly too late to have any influence on fate of Cementa’s Slite limestone quarry.

Sweden’s parliament has agreed met An government proposal to adjust the country’s environmental laws to: give Cementa a stay of implementation, but not for longterm solution is: in sight.

Environmentalists such as David Kihlberg, climate head at the Swedish Association for Conservation, say regulatory easing gives industry an excuse to off changes Which need happen now.

“It would be incredibly destructive” for climate diplomacy if Sweden would come to the most important climate meeting in Glasgow and said our climate policy is to increase emissions and local environmental impact in to pull the carpet away from Chinese cement producers,” he said, referring to a hypothetical scenario that is not Swedish policy.

“The climate question is: global and should be resolved through cooperation between countries.”

Editing by Mark John and David Clarke

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Read More: World News


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