From the Pacific to Scandinavia

Sweden has long been a leader on climate change. With Pacific Island countries facing extreme risks from climate change calling for help, will Sweden support their proposal for a moratorium on new coal mines?

While President of Kiribati Anote Tong was in Australia last week to talk about his proposal for a moratorium on new coal mines, momentum was building on the other side of the world -- in Scandinavia.

Dr Richard Denniss, The Australia Institute's chief economist, has been in Sweden in recent weeks meeting with many people about his research on the need for a moratorium. Countries like Sweden are known for leadership on climate change and an ethos of looking after those on in trouble. With 12 Pacific island nations, among the world's most vulnerable to climate change, now calling for a moratorium on new coal mines, will the Swedish government join them?


9 eminent Swedes back the moratorium

Today 9 eminent Swedes wrote in one of Sweden's highest profile news sites calling for their government to support the moratorium. The piece is co-published by

Dr Anders Wijkman - Author, climate advocate, Co-President of the Club of Rome
Prof Johan Rockström - Director of Stockholm Resilience Centre
Prof Johan Kuylenstierna - Executive Director, Stockholm Environment Institute
Ulf Bjereld - President of Social Democrats for Faith and Solidarity
Prof Harry Flam - Professor of International Economy
Bo Frank - Mayor, Växjö
Pär Holmgren - Author and climate advocate
Antje Jackelén - Archbishop
Prof Assar Lindbeck - Professor of international Economy

You can read the article here, translated into English. It begins:

World’s consumption of coal has risen by more than 50 percent since the Rio-meeting in 1992. Furthermore, Australia is planning to approve numerous new coal mines. We encourage Stefan Löfven [Swedish PM] to take a stand and together with the president of Kiribati work for a global moratorium on new coal mines.


Debate in Sweden's parliament

The coal mine moratorium debate is also entering Swedish Parliament. Environmental spokesperson for the Swedish Left Party, Jens Holm, has tabled a formal question on the moratorium to Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven.

In English, the question reads: 

Question 2015/16:350 Swedish support for Kiribati’s proposal to stop coal

Anote Tong, President of the Republic of Kiribati, in a letter to world leaders has asked for support for his and the island nation’s proposition to stop new exploitation of coal.

Kiribati is one of the countries that right now is being hit the hardest by climate change, mainly because of rising sea levels. According to sources, the Prime Minister and the Swedish government have received this plea. If Sweden got behind the initiative, it would be an important signal to the global community that we take the climate issue seriously - especially the call from the worst stricken countries. Even Sweden is responsible for a large amount of coal burning, especially considering Vattenfall’s large amount of carbon emissions in Germany.

Anote Tong and the people of Kiribati expect to receive an answer before the Paris meeting, COP 21. Because of this I want to ask Prime Minister Stefan Löfvén: Will Sweden get behind Kiribati in their plea to stop new exploitation of coal?

Under formal parliamentary process, the Swedish government is expected to answer within 14 days; that would be during the early days of the Paris COP21 summit.

But the government may have to answer earlier: Swedish Parliament is today scheduled to debate climate change policy and Paris. If the question of the moratorium arises, will the Social Democrat / Green coalition government agree to back the moratorium?

Question Time in the Swedish Parliament

Jens Holm then went further, addressing the concerns of Kiribati during question time in the Swedish Parliament. While holding up the letter from the President of Kiribati he asked the Minister for Climate and Environment, Åsa Romson, if the Swedish Government would stand with the people of Kiribati and support a moratorium on new coal mines.

The Minister, seemingly a bit surprised by the question, answered that she was aware of the letter and that it is currently being ‘processed’/’handled’ by the Office of the Cabinet. She noted that this question has become more prevalent and that it would be impossible for the world to take sufficient action on climate change if all existing coal resources in the world were extracted and burnt.

Jens Holm (V) holds up a copy of President Tong's letter

“You asked me a question about a specific letter, I can tell you that it is currently being processed by the office of the cabinet. I also know that there has been some questions about this previously and we will have to come back to this in parliament.”

Jens Holm then tried to get an answer from the Minister, he said;

“I get the answer that the letter is currently being handled by the office of the cabinet, but President Tong would preferably like a response before the meeting in Paris”

He continued by saying;

“What if Sweden could stand up, as the first industrialised nation, and say ‘Yes! We support the people of Kiribati and we will do whatever it takes to make sure that people can continue to live on the islands of Kiribati’ ”

However, the Minister avoided answering the question.

Sweden vs Australia's coal mines?

Sweden might want to consider why the moratorium is so urgent.

Australia is one of few countries planning a huge coal expansion. If this goes ahead, it will undermine all other action on climate change. Just one mine, Adani's Carmichael mine, would be bigger than many capital cities -- including Stockholm -- and produce annual greenhouse gas emissions greater than many countries' current emissions -- including Sweden's.