Paris Goes Car Free For One Day

Ahead of the Global Climate Change summit that begins in Paris on November 30, Sweden has announced its Fossil Fuel Free Sweden program, which seeks to see the entire nation transition away from fossil fuels by the year 2030. Sweden is also challenging other nations to follow its lead. By doing so, it is following the advice of Tesla’s Elon Musk, who said last spring that burning fossil fuels was the “dumbest experiment in history.”

In an article in The Guardian, Åsa Romson, member of the Green party and deputy premier of Sweden, set forth her country’s case for going fossil fuel free. She says that doing so will cost about 5% more than the investments in infrastructure and urban development all nations must make anyway. That increase will be more than offset by the amount of money saved by using lower cost renewable energy and the new employment opportunities green technologies will create. A recent study by the Club of Rome predicts that “going green” will add 100,000 new jobs in Sweden alone.  Add to that the reduction in health care costs from the decline in air, water and land pollution and the overall economic benefits are enormous.

“Sweden has positive experience of combining emissions reductions with an improved economy and welfare. For many years we have used effective policy levers that put a price on carbon, using a carbon dioxide tax accompanied by political leadership that supports the emergence of climate-smart innovations. This has resulted in reduced emissions and market-based solutions while our economy has grown,” Romson says.

She says the Swedish business community is firmly behind the fossil fuel free initiative. “In Sweden, the business sector, local authorities and other stakeholders are coming together through the Fossil-free Sweden initiative and jointly issuing a challenge to their counterparts around the world. Swedish companies including ABB, IKEA, H&M and Ericsson…..are supporting the initiative and themselves contributing to reduced emissions. Fuel company Preem, which operates petrol stations throughout Sweden, has decided to only offer renewable fuels at its pumps by 2030. The Fourth Swedish National Pension Fund will invest its entire SEK200bn portfolio in low-carbon strategies within five years.”

Sweden’s position is exactly opposite to that of many Congressional Republicans, who have already warned President Obama that they will reject any US commitments made in Paris that will cost one nickel of taxpayer money. That’s despite the fact the the US and other nations spend trillions of dollars a year for subsidies ladled out to fossil fuel industries. Let the seas rise and the heavens rage until every last barrel and ton of fossil fuel has been wrested from the earth. Let our rivers run black with coal sludge. Let out atmosphere poison untold millions, just so long as the people who make a profit from fossil fuels can continue padding their already bloated bank accounts.

If the key to climate change is political leadership, the United States will remain in thrall to fossil fuel polluters in perpetuity. Many of our representatives are perfectly happy to sell the rest of us down the (heavily polluted) river, so long as their benefactors keep doling out campaign cash. America has the best government money can buy, some say, and there seems to be much truth in that statement.

Since leadership from our elected leaders is not forthcoming, it is up to We The People to decide what is in our mutual best interest. If the people will lead, their leaders will follow — reluctantly.