The skeptics on the right assure us that cutting our emissions in some wimpy way (they'd still be behind those of China and other countries) would spell economic distaster. Meanwhile, Sweden's well on its way to be COMPLETELY independent of foreign oil imports by 2020. As for the economic impact, Sweden's economy is booming. As they say, green is the new black.
[Excerpt] In the cool forest region of southern Sweden, the city of Vaxjo has turned off the heating oil, even on the darkest, snowbound days of winter. Coal, too, is gone and next on the fossil fuel hit list is petrol. In the underground car park of the local government offices there are no private vehicles, just a communal car fleet.
Staff, who cycle or take the local biogas buses to work, book ahead to use vehicles in the fleet, and fill up on biogas or E85, a blend of 85 per cent renewable ethanol. Petrol is still readily available to the public, but carbon emissions in Sweden are heavily taxed. Drivers pay about 80 cents a litre extra at the bowser for the privilege of spewing out carbon dioxide.
Vaxjo is chasing a fossil fuel-free future, and it's almost halfway there without having sacrificed lifestyle, comfort or economic growth. When local politicians announced the phase-out in 1996, it was little more than a quaint curiosity. Oil prices were hovering around $US20 a barrel and global warming was still a hotly contested debate.
Today, at least one international delegation a week - mainly from China and Japan - beats a path to Vaxjo to see how it's done.
The Vaxjo model has been repeated all over Sweden, creating a network of "climate" municipalities. Sweden's emissions have long been falling, and last year the Government announced its own ambitious national goal: to end oil dependency by 2020.