“Sweden is withdrawing from the European Green Deal, abandoning the development of solar and wind energy and launching a nuclear programme,” claimed a tweet that has been retweeted nearly 2,000 times since June 26.

“Sweden says goodbye to the Green Deal! And (French President Emmanuel) Macron, what’s he waiting for?” read another tweet, while a Facebook post also applauded the decision allegedly taken by Sweden.

Screeshots taken on Twitter (left) and Facebook (right) on June 30, 2023.

What is the source of the claim?

These posts include a screenshot of a German blog post entitled “Sweden withdraws from the Green Deal and abandons green energy goals”.

“The Swedish government… dealt a blow to the EU’s Green Deal by abandoning green energy goals,” the author wrote, referring to remarks by Finance Minister Elisabeth Svantesson to the Swedish parliament.

“Wind and solar energy are too unstable” to respond to the country’s energy needs, she allegedly said, according to the blog post, which sourced the quote to a Reuters article from June 20, 2023 that was republished by European news website Euractiv.

Headlined “Sweden adopts ‘100% fossil-free’ energy target, easing way for nuclear”, the article reported that the Swedish parliament voted to modify the country’s energy mix target for 2040.

While the finance minister was indeed quoted there as saying, “We need more electricity production, we need clean electricity and we need a stable energy system,” she did not mention the instability of wind and solar energy, as claimed by the blog post.

Neither was there any mention of a Green Deal exit by Sweden in the remarks reported by Reuters. AFP was in fact unable to locate any trace of the “wind and solar energy are too unstable” quote mentioned by the German blog post.

What are the facts?

On June 20, the Swedish parliament adopted an amendment proposed by the government that sets a new electricity mix target for 2040. The target has gone from 100-percent renewable electricity to 100-percent fossil-free electricity.

But that is in no way an official withdrawal from the Green Deal pact, as a European Commission spokesperson told AFP on June 28, 2023, explaining that Sweden had not announced any intention to do so.

The press office of the Swedish finance ministry also denied that Sweden had withdrawn or planned to, according to a statement to AFP on June 29, 2023.

The European Commission spokesperson said Sweden, which at the time held the rotating EU Council presidency, played an important role and made its voice heard in favour of the legislation and its finalisation. The spokesperson added however that resorting to nuclear energy is a national choice that does not go against the objectives of the European Green Deal.

The Swedish Parliament, October 17, 2022 (archive). Photo AFP/Jonathan Nackstrand)

Climate plan with carbon neutrality target for 2050

Presented for the first time in December 2019, the Green Deal is a climate plan that is notably meant to make the continent climate neutral by 2050, reduce net greenhouse gas emissions by at least 55 percent by 2030 compared to 1990 levels and have three billion additional trees planted in the EU by 2030.

“This is Europe’s man on the moon moment,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said when presenting the roadmap for action featuring 50 practical steps.

More than two years later, the essence of the plan has been adopted (carbon market reform, carbon border tax, end of combustion-engine vehicle sales), yet negotiations are stalled on other key points, including biodiversity, pesticides and farm pollution emissions.

The European Commission spokesperson told AFP in June 2023 that various pieces of legislation were currently being adopted and approved by sector: energy, transportation, land use, etc.

In this context, doubts have emerged regarding the EU’s capacity to fulfil its objectives. On June 26, 2023, the European Court of Auditors said they saw the “2030 climate and energy targets at risk”.

“The EU’s achievement of its 2020 climate and energy targets was partly due to external factors such as the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, which contributed to reducing emissions,” the EU auditors said, adding that they found “little indication that actions to achieve 2030 climate and energy targets will be sufficient.”

Their sources of concern include national plans that they believe are not ambitious enough to achieve the collective goal of energy efficiency set by the 27 countries for the EU.

The EU member states had until June 30, 2023 to present updated drafts of their national plans regarding energy and climate for the 2021-2030 period to the European Commission. The plans will need to be finalised by mid-2024.  

In Sweden, the objectives are featured in the government’s climate plan that was sent to Brussels in 2020. Based on a table included in the official document, Sweden notably plans to cut its net greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2045.

Other objectives mentioned in the table include 50 percent of final consumption of energy to be covered by renewable sources in 2020 and 100 percent renewable electricity generation by 2040 — which the table specifies is a target not a deadline for nuclear energy.

Screenshot of the Swedish government’s climate plan, taken on June 30, 2023.

Things have changed since 2020. In October 2022, Sweden’s conservative leader Ulf Kristersson was elected prime minister with unprecedented and influential support from the far-right, marking a new political era for the Scandinavian country.

According to their roadmap, the governing coalition notably plans a revival of nuclear energy, which Sweden had reduced in recent decades.

On June 20, the Swedish parliament adopted a new national target for the composition of electricity production for 2040. The new target is “100-percent fossil-free electricity production” in 2040, while the previous target had been “100-percent renewable electricity production” in 2040, according to the parliament website.

According to energy data compiled by the Swedish Institute — a public agency whose aim is to build interest and trust in Sweden around the world — 75 percent of electricity production in Sweden comes from hydroelectric (43 percent) and nuclear (31 percent) power. The country currently has three nuclear plants. It adds that some 16 percent of electricity output comes from wind power, while combined heat and power plants account for around nine percent “and these are mainly powered by biofuels”.  

“In 2021, around 60 percent of Sweden’s energy production came from renewable sources,” the site said.

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