When I wrote about IKEA's extraordinary climate commitment, I noted that the pledge was "bigger than Sweden's."
I might have spoken too soon. As the U.K.'s Independent newspaper reports, Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has announced that the country will work to become "one of the first fossil fuel-free welfare states in the world." That's a pretty tall commitment.
We have, of course, seen plenty of pledges by cities, businesses, and even countries to source 100 percent of their electricity from renewable sources. What Löfven appears to be aiming for, however, is something considerably more ambitious — complete freedom from fossil fuels, and that's including energy used for transportation, heating and heavy industry.
Of course, in some ways Sweden has a leg up on the competition. According to the Independent, the country already sources two-thirds of its electricity from renewables. And with neighbors like Denmark already occasionally producing more wind power than the country needs, and Norway having an abundance of hydropower available to the West, Sweden is better placed than most to meet its needs without fossil fuels.
So far, Löfven hasn't announced a specific target date for being 100-percent fossil fuel-free. But the country is planning on spending 4.5 billion kronor (about $545 million) next year on supporting renewable energy and clean tech infrastructure, as well as pledging $500 million kronor a year to support renewable energy in developing countries.
Most likely, Sweden's biggest challenges will come from the transportation and heating sectors. But here too, Sweden has some considerable advantages:
- Swedish automotive company Volvo is pushing hard on electric buses, and Swedish cities are already very mass transit-friendly. (It's just one of the 10 things Sweden does right, apparently.)
- Ground source heat pumps are cutting heating emissions in many Swedish homes dramatically.
- Sweden's neighbor, Norway, is already one of the leading markets for electric cars. So Sweden can learn a thing or two from next door.
- Sweden already has many energy-efficient homes, and Löfven is promising 1 billion kronor annually to make homes more energy efficient. (And he's pledging 50 million kronor for energy storage research too.)
In short, Sweden has an incredibly long way to go. But it's encouraging to hear a political leader expressing the will to get there. A recent report from Greenpeace suggests that 100 percent renewable energy (not just electricity) by 2050 is possible, not just for Sweden, but worldwide too.
Maybe Löfven is just getting ahead of the pack.