The UN climate report, which was presented on Monday 9 August, shows with all the desired clarity that we must increase the pace of the climate transition work. We are humble because a lot needs to be handled in society due to this, but we also state sternly that we will not succeed if we do not get functioning permit processes.
The highly topical cement crisis puts the finger on the infected intersection between ideological climate ambition and the real change work carried out by large Swedish industrial companies. The plant in Slite that now looks to be forced to close down would be the world’s first climate-neutral cement factory. On the other hand, the need for cement will not decrease through climate change, on the contrary. The consequence of a shutdown will be cement production with greater climate impact and longer transports to customers.
Large cement users, such as the construction sector and not least the mining industry, are forced to look for new producers further and further away from Sweden, which means both less sustainable production and long and expensive transport routes. Contrary to our ambitions.
Unfortunately, the tours around the lime quarry on Gotland are only the latest, and perhaps most noticed, example of how poor permit processes work in Sweden. Earlier this summer, Boliden announced plans to invest in Norway instead of Sweden, among other things with reference to the fact that the permit processes create uncertainty for continued investments in Sweden. The examples can be made many.
The outside world also sees the same thing; Sweden’s attractiveness for investments in the mining industry in international surveys fell from place 8 to place 36 between 2016 and 2021. This is alarming. Sweden has the potential to deliver more of the materials needed to cope with the climate transition, but the Swedish processes for environmental permits are a setback for Sweden’s development and climate work.
We are currently seeing a political dizziness around how value chains and material supply actually take place in society. The basic industry is the industry that lays the foundation for Sweden’s climate work by working to create climate-neutral value chains – which will be a prerequisite for achieving the climate goals. Ambitious investment plans in the industry companies can make Sweden a world leader in climate-neutral raw materials. But all this is neglected with Kafka-like permit processes.
Efforts are now needed to change these.
A fundamental error in the permit processes is the lack of a holistic view. For example, there is no state actor or authority whose task is to ensure the totality of sustainable development, which includes all three dimensions – environmental, economic and social dimensions. Here, politics must do its part. Without the political courage to change, and to see the big picture of how climate change is linked to, among other things, access to metals and minerals, we are pushing the problems ahead of us or to another country without the same sustainability intentions.
It has been years since we in the industry first sounded the alarm to decision-makers that the system around permits must be fundamentally changed. Maybe the cement crisis, together with the IPCC report, can be the awakening we so desperately need?
“The sound from the alarm bells is stunning and the evidence is indisputable. Greenhouse gases are suffocating our planet and putting billions of people in immediate danger. ” This is how UN Secretary-General António Guterres summed up the climate report earlier today.
Let those words lead the way also in the work of creating efficient and predictable permit processes here in Sweden – that is the prerequisite for a sustainable future.