Sweden’s strategy to net zero: a look at the numbers

it is deeply instructive to take a look at Swedish numbers to see how they match the vision of Net Zero. An essay:

Sweden wants to be world-leading in the race to net-zero. Or at least that is the rhetoric you can find on official websites. For those interested in having an actual climate-safe future, it is deeply instructive to take a look at the numbers to see how they match the vision.

Emissions today

There are three main emission areas to keep track of: territorial (within geographic borders), emissions arising from imports, and carbon sequestration or negative emissions, where carbon from the atmosphere is absorbed by forests and other vegetation.

Territorial emissions = 43 million tonnes CO2 equivalent
Via imports = 47 million tonnes CO2 equivalent
Swedish Nature = – 40 million tonnes CO2 equivalent
TOTAL EMISSIONS = 90 million tonnes CO2 equivalent
NET EMISSIONS = 50million tonnes CO2 equivalent

Source: Swedish EPA (figures rounded for clarity)

Assuming that Swedish nature cannot absorb any more, and the date set by the EU for net zero is 2050, you are looking at a reduction of 5% per year.

Based on 5% reduction per year for all types of emission

So the next question, where do the emissions come from? Well, the ones from fossil fuels can be found using the SNI – the Swedish index of industries and digging around in national statistics.

Step one: eliminate fossil fuels

Image: fuel type and use per industry category.

The main sources are H, transport and C, Manufacturing. In terms of reaching Net Zero, then, removal of fossil fule from manufacturing is one imperative. Apart from substituting for other forms of energy provision, one simple strategy is to cut demand for new products by extending product life. The diagram shows that about 25% of energy used in manufacturing is fossil based.

By increasing the life of existing products, then, by say 25% there is a theoretical opportunity to use existing amounts of renewable energy and eliminate fossil entirely.

When it comes to transport, 63% of fuel burned is in private cars. Finding ways to reduce private car use include:

  • Substitution with electric vehicles
  • Reducing transport demand by redesigning society
  • Introducing economic incentives to use multi-person vehicles.

Step two, make biogenic emissions balance

By balancing, this means that for every biological emission of CO2 there needs to be an equivalent carbon uptake. This will be the subject of my next post. Stay tuned


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