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'Devastating consequences' as new Swedish government scraps environment ministry

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By David Mac Dougall
Family picture of the new Swedish government on Lejonbacken's terrace at Stockholm Palace, Sweden, Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022,
Family picture of the new Swedish government on Lejonbacken's terrace at Stockholm Palace, Sweden, Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2022,   -   Copyright  AP Photo   -  

Sweden's new right-wing government has sparked an outcry after scrapping the Ministry of Environment in a move the opposition has branded "devastating".

Previously, the ministry was a high-profile stand-alone department with a minister in the cabinet, but now it will operate as part of another ministry instead.  

Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson unveiled his new cabinet on Tuesday, and although he did appoint a Minister of Climate and Environment -- 26-year-old Liberal MP Romina Pourmokhtari-- she will work under Christian Democrat leader Ebba Busch, the new Minister for Energy, Business and Industry, rather than lead her own ministry.  

The leader of the Swedish Greens, Per Bolund, noted that for the first time in 35 years Sweden would have no dedicated environment ministry. 

"It is impossible to describe more clearly how little this government values ​​the environment and the climate. This is a historic decision with devastating consequences for environmental issues", said Bolund.  

Pär Holmgren, a Swedish Green Party MEP, said, "expect huge cuts in green funding leading to a devastating impact on climate policies that we, the Greens, worked so hard to put in place." 

Isabella Lövin, chairperson of the board at the Stockholm Environmental Institute and herself a former minister of environment, said that green issues in Sweden had been "set back 35 years".

It's not the first time that environmental issues in Sweden have been handled by other ministries. 

Before the first dedicated environment ministry was established in 1987, the Ministry of Agriculture and then the combined Ministry of Environment and Energy dealt with those policy matters. 

The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, one of the first in the world, was established back in 1967.

AP Photo
Sweden's Minister of Climate and Environment Romina Pourmokhtari speaks to the media at a press conference, Stockholm, 18 October 2022AP Photo

What is the new Swedish government doing about the climate crisis?

In the Swedish government's new programme, unveiled last week, the environment is flagged as one of the seven key priority areas to tackle in the first year of office, although many initiatives are more closely linked with the energy crisis. 

The policy agenda, outlined in a 62-page document, committed Sweden to meet current national and international goals - like the Paris Agreement - on reducing carbon emissions. 

The government has also earmarked more money for nuclear power, with €36 billion credit guarantees to build new nuclear power stations, and also plans to introduce rules to make it more difficult to shut down existing nuclear plants.

And to ensure the safety of electricity supply in the shorter term (and to keep prices low), the government will investigate whether it's viable to reopen two nuclear power stations in the south of the country which were closed over the last few years.

A price cap for energy bills, funded by the government, will be introduced by November, and the country's network of charging points for electric vehicles will be expanded.