When I was growing up, my family would drive up each summer to the northeastern United States to visit my paternal grandparents. My grandmother grew up in a Swedish-speaking household, with Swedish immigrant parents, in the Boston area. From my grandmother, and my father, I learned many things as a boy about Sweden that fascinated me, like traditional holiday cooking, decorating, and dress, especially for St. Lucia’s Day, a winter holiday (December 13) that begins the extended celebration of Christmas. And I admired Sweden’s history of technological innovation, socioeconomic progress, and the push in their society for justice, peace, and a clean environment. For example, chemist Alfred Nobel (1833 – 1896) established and endowed the Nobel Prizes (note that a prize for chemistry was just awarded to a UNC-Chapel Hill scientist). And Dag Hammarskjöld (1905-1961) became the second Secretary General of the United Nations, posthumously receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1961. There was much to admire about the land of my ancestors.
Sweden continues to innovate and move forward today on many such fronts. For example, with the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (Nov. 30 – Dec. 11, 2015, in Paris, France) now imminent, Sweden has announced its intention to become one of the first countries in the world – and possibly even the first – to become fossil fuel free, generating all of its electricity from clean energy. The Paris U.N. meeting will be the 21st yearly session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the 1992 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the 11th overall Conference of the Meeting of the Parties (CMP11) to the 1997 Kyoto Protocol. The Paris conference intends to achieve a legally binding, universal agreement on climate from all the world’s nations (unlike Kyoto).
So far, Sweden has announced no timetable for implementation of the national fossil-fuel-free plan. Whatever the timeline, Sweden appears to intend to strengthen their attempts in Paris to persuade other countries to follow their example in international climate negotiations. But how will Sweden, a country of approximately 9.8 million people, pay for this ambitious plan? And have any other governments already attempted this?