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Sweden may face EU court over emissions

Radio SwedenEye on the Arctic

The European Union Commission may take Sweden to court over the country’s failure to reduce pollution levels in its cities.

Pollution levels in several Swedish cities exceed EU limits and Sweden has also failed to introduce a directive aimed at limiting industrial waste. Now, the EU Commission is launching a process that may involve bringing Sweden to court if the country fails to take appropriate measures.

“Sweden is among several European countries that are experiencing problems with air pollution and every year 400,000 people in the EU die of diseases related to air pollution,” Joe Hennon, spokesperson for European Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potocnik, told Swedish Radio News.

Hennon said the EU Commission is expected to launch a legal process against Sweden in the spring, with the aim of pressuring the country to reduce pollution levels in its cities. At the same time, the EU Commission has already launched another legal process claiming that Sweden has not properly implemented an EU directive concerning industrial waste.

“This is very much a judicial matter. We are not saying that there is a direct increase in air pollution because of what Sweden has or has not done in regards to adjusting its national legislation. On the other hand, we are saying that all member states must implement what we have agreed on should be implemented,” said Hennon.

Unlike the EU Commission, the Swedish government believes that Sweden has, in fact, integrated the EU directive into Swedish law. Sweden now has two months to respond to the EU Commission’s letter, but right now there are no signs that the Swedish government will change its stance on the matter.

Chances are high that the EU Commission will drag Sweden to the EU court over the law on industrial waste.

Sweden fails to meet other green targets

Sweden is predicted to reach just to out of 16 environmental goals by 2020, according to the nation's Environmental Protection Agency.

Only the goals set for the ozone layer and dangerous radiation will be met.

“Things are proceeding slowly and I am worried,” Sweden’s environment minister, Lena Ek, told Swedish Television News.

Eva Thörnelöf, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said that more measures are needed in order to reach the goals.

“We need to be more efficient,” said Thörnelöf, adding that “in some areas, political decisions are also needed. The pace of the ‘green’ environmental quality goals also depend on how much resources you have.”

The environmental targets were introduced in 1999 and have been criticized for being fluffy and nearly impossible to reach. To up the pace the government has now adopted five more concrete milestones for, among other things, cadmium and waste. There are now a total of 24 milestones.

“I’m hoping that next year the question will instead be ‘how many measures have you taken to reach every environmental target,'” said Ek.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.