Environmental Issues in Sweden

Sweden is the largest Scandinavian country, and its land mass is a little bigger than the state of California. During the Second World War, Sweden declared neutrality and was therefore largely untouched by the destruction to its natural environment caused by that war. Its numerous forest reserves, slower population growth and strong conservation movement helped preserve a large number of national forests. By 2003, 9.2 percent of the total land in Sweden was protected. In the 1960s, Sweden organized the first UN environmental conference to address issues of loss of natural resources.

In the 1980s, the environment and expansion of nuclear energy were hotly debated political issues. Expansion of nuclear power was limited to 12 reactors in Sweden. Today Sweden has over 47 percent of its energy resources in renewable resources, with a goal to reach 50 percent by 2020. Sweden's renewable energy resource percentage is the highest in the European Union(EU). Currently, Sweden has 16 stated environmental goals to be achieved by the year 2020. For the years 2013-2016, approximately SEK 22 billion will be devoted to pursuing improved environmental quality. The goals cover 16 unique areas for improvement, ranging from topics like unpolluted air and lakes to environmentally balanced forests and farmland. Specifics on the progress of these environmental goals can be found at www.miljomal.se. Eight different governmental agencies interact to work on achieving these 16 environmental goals. Sweden has had an Environmental Code enacted since 1999 to create a healthy and sustainable environment. Sweden also requires strict impact assessments in a wide range of areas before any business can undertake potentially environmentally hazardous projects.

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An area of concern for countries along the Baltic Sea rim is the pollution of the Baltic Sea due to emissions from agriculture and waste treatment plants. Improvement in this area requires international cooperation of the EU countries on the rim. Sweden was a leader during its 2009 presidency of the EU in creating a pilot project for cooperation in the Baltic Sea area. In 2011, it also created a new government agency, the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management, to help address these water related issues.

Another one of Sweden's environmental threats is the acidification of its lakes. Sweden's continued industrialization and growth of urban areas in the south has created both a water quality issue and a threat to native flora and fauna. Sweden has worked since 1990 to reduce acidity in its lakes. Fish still cannot breed in more than 16,000 lakes. Sweden has faced its water quality challenges and become a leader in providing good drinkable tap water and addressing water management issues.

Timber harvesting in Sweden's forests has become more socially responsible, but environmental issues still include the over harvesting of wood for pulp production, causing a loss of forest habitat for birds and plant life. More than 2,000 forest species are still considered threatened.

Today, Sweden is an acknowledged leader in environmental protection. Sweden has become a European leader in recycling and waste disposal management. Since 2005, Sweden has banned the sale of plastic drink bottles that do not conform to an approved recycling program. Sweden's greenhouse gas emissions are one of the lowest in the EU. Emissions have been reduced by almost 20 percent since 1990 with a goal of 40 percent by 2020. Sweden's corporations successfully engage in socially responsible business practices and Swedish companies like Ikea are considered business and environmental leaders. Sweden also works closely with the United States to advance environmental sustainability and clean technologies under their " Green Alliance" (SAGA).

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