The new Swedish Minister of Climate and Environment, Romina Pourmokhtari, will now work under Minister of Energy, Business and Industry Ebba Busch rather than lead her own department, according to the new cabinet unveiled by the Nordic country’s recently formed three-party coalition government.
It will be the first time in 35 years that Sweden, one of the most environmentally friendly countries on earth, will be without a government ministry specifically tasked with managing the issue, though environmental protection — as does Purmokhtari, the youngest-ever Swedish minister — retains a prominent spot in the government’s energy agenda.
The new government was formed on Oct. 17, following general elections on Sept. 11.
“If we want to solve climate issues, it’s about transforming industry and the transport sector,” Busch said as reported by Sweden’s The Local Se. She believes that previous Swedish governments have given “too much weight” to green politics.
The development has sparked criticism from climate activists and others, who protest what they say is a sign that Sweden’s right wing — the new government is a coalition between the Moderates, Christian Democrats, and Sweden Democrats — cares little about the environment.
“It is impossible to describe more clearly how little this government values the environment and the climate,” Per Bolund, head of Sweden’s Green Party, wrote on Twitter on Oct. 18, calling it a “decision with devastating consequences.”
However, a report by Euro News suggests that the government’s policy agenda still addressees environmental problems though it may not give them as “much weight.”
“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,” Euro News wrote of the 62-page document, which does commit Sweden to reducing carbon emissions along the goals listed in the Paris Agreement and other metrics. The policy also calls for more EV charging ports.
At the same time, it gives €36 billion in credit guarantees for new nuclear reactors, plans regulations to discourage “arbitrarily shutting down nuclear power plants,” and will look into temporarily restarting two existing reactors that are currently unused.
World Nuclear News reported that this would be done under a new policy that scales back the goal to eventually make Sweden 100-percent fossil-fuel free so as to accommodate nuclear energy.
Former environmental minister Isabella Lövin, who now chairs the Stockholm Environmental Institute, said that the environmental movement was “set back 35 years,” according to Euro News.
This was possibly in reference to the time before 1987, when environmental matters were the purview of the Ministry of Agriculture, and later, the Ministry of Environment and Energy.