The Nordic region should take a leading role in the sustainability transition

The Nordic countries are secure democracies with stable economies. We have a high standard of living and our ecological footprints are among the largest in the world. Therefore, the Nordic countries should take on a common leadership role during and after the climate negotiations in Paris. That is the opinion of Pontus Wallin, who wrote one essay on climate responsibility.

The COP21 climate summit has now begun in Paris. A lot will be about taking responsibility. For some time now, there have been nine established planetary boundaries, developed by, among others, climate researcher Johan Rockström. Many of the world's most influential institutions, researchers, and organizations have joined the ranks of the theories around these boundaries and the nine goals we must achieve to stay within the boundaries.

"It's enough now"

Rockström writes at the end of his and Mattias Klums Big world, small planet - welfare within the planet's boundaries (2014) that “We know with great certainty that after the year 2050 we must have a world with zero emissions and a world economy that has completely stopped using coal. We must also have a zero percent species loss in order to halt the loss of biodiversity. And now that we have transformed half the surface of the Earth into agricultural land and cities, we must be able to saturate all the people of the world with the agricultural land we have. In other words, that's enough now".

The planetary boundaries are the playing field, as Rockström calls it.

Is there so much left to blame for the inactivity? It is thought that the publications on the planetary boundaries, or why not the old Brundtland report on sustainable development from 1987, should have served as a starting point for more than it actually seems to have done. Time is running out when it comes to acting for prevention. Acting under great pressure can lead to efficiency, but it can also be experienced as more painful. Instead of waking up and getting up on time, we are about to fall asleep. However, it is not ourselves who will be hardest hit by our negligence.

Climate refugees must be taken care of

Last winter I researched - through my bachelor's thesis Which countries should house the climate refugees who are expected to become territorial without in the coming century due to rising sea levels. Countries such as the Maldives, Kiribati, and Tuvalu will become uninhabitable as surface levels rise and residents are forced to flee. It has now been established that greenhouse gas emissions affect sea levels and more. Heating and cooling of the climate has also taken place before, in a natural way. The fluctuations have then led to instability, and it is only the recent period of stable climate that has made human development possible. Now we are about to leave this wonderfully stable period behind us.

The argument in the essay was based on the most verified values ​​in research on climate justice, namely that the polluter pays, the profiteer pays, and the person who can afford it pays. In summary, this means that the country that has emitted the most greenhouse gases, and at the same time benefited from its emissions in the form of increased welfare or economic prosperity, and also in the current situation can also afford to pay for itself, is singled out as appropriate to compensate for emissions. Only the 25 countries that in total emitted the most greenhouse gas were included in the survey.

Only the one with money can pay

Of course, that is not a sin itself to be able to afford to pay, but if the ability to pay has arisen through emissions that others now have to suffer from, it is different. In addition, the fact remains that only the one with money can pay for anything. The three values ​​of climate justice can be criticized forever, which is done in the study. However, it is now much more possible to track historical emissions, measure welfare, track the causes of welfare, and so on, than it has been before. Welfare and wealth often also coincide with large historical discharges.

In the study, which was not about financial compensation but about housing climate refugees, a value was added for this. Together with historical emissions (1850-2011) and current welfare (Human Development Index), a top 25 list was drawn up of the countries that could be considered the most equitable alternatives for climate refugees. Extremely simplified of course, but still clear. The United States ended up at the top of the list, accompanied by Canada and Russia.

In order to anchor the study more in reality, a “measure” of the refugees' maximization of happiness was inserted, where the basis consisted of previous studies of where the inhabitants of the South Sea would prefer to go. Of course, everything becomes a kind of compromise, and a simplified one. In any case, Australia was singled out among the 25 countries as the most suitable country to move to from the perspective of the islanders and also future refugees.

Time to change the Nordic model

What I want to say is not that my essay should form the basis for any decision-making, but rather shed light on what may become necessary if responsibility continues to be postponed, or set aside. Then countries will eventually be forced to be singled out as guilty.

I therefore believe that it is time to uncompromisingly adapt the Nordic model to the planetary boundaries. The Fossil-Free Sweden initiative, which was recently launched by the government, is a good start, especially since important players from the business community have already joined. Participation, on the other hand, should hardly be voluntary. I therefore hope that the municipalities and actors who do not get involved are led on the right track.

The Nordic countries are relatively spared from horrors, wars and economic crises. In addition, we have low populations, a high standard of living and developed industries. At the same time, our ecological footprints are among the largest in the world. The Nordic countries should therefore take on a common leadership role during and after COP21, in order to also obtain a greater regional impact. Let us develop the Nordic model to include concepts such as renewable and sustainable, but still successful and welfare-promoting. Transport without fossil fuels is crucial, but there are still eight other vital goals where commitments are equally important.

No one should have to point at us and force us to act, we will do it anyway. Our decision-makers know that our way of life has contributed to the unsustainable situation of others. The time has come for a major societal change.

Pontus Wallin

This is a debate article. The author is responsible for analysis and opinions in the text.

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