First Impressions from Stockholm +50

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    Stockholm (NordSIP) – In June 1972, the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment brought the representatives of 113 countries together in Stockholm to establish for the first time (26) principles, (109) recommendations, multilateral institutions and funding to tackle environmental issues.

    Fifty years on, representatives from across the world are meeting once again in the Swedish capital to mark the anniversary of the 1972 meeting at the UN high-level Stockholm +50 conference on June 2nd and 3rd, co-hosted by Sweden and Kenya.

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    “The countries of the world have made many promises and commitments, but implementation leaves something to be desired. More needs to be done faster if we are to reverse the trend, and that’s why it is important for the world to get together and discuss the way forward,” says Minister for Climate and the Environment Annika Strandhäll.

    Ahead of the Stockholm +50 conference, several official and unofficial side events are also taking place, which have given the opportunity for more focused initiatives to ride the momentum created in the lead up to the main event.


    On May 31st, the EU, Canada and China hosted the 6th Ministerial dialogue on Climate Action (MoCA6). The meeting focused on taking stock from last year’s COP26 in Glasgow and preparing for the COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh.

    “We need to reflect on the role of the many different, and useful, initiatives, partnerships, and close engagement with non-Party stakeholders. (…) I also expect Ministers to reflect on the work in front of us ahead of COP27 in Sharm El Sheikh and on how we can deliver on the Glasgow mandates,” Executive Vice-President for the European Green Deal Frans Timmermans said, describing the focus of the meeting.

    “Hosting this meeting in Sweden was a big opportunity for Canada to help raise the level of ambition on climate action and nature protection by other countries and build the momentum from Glasgow to Egypt. To achieve the goals agreed to in the Paris Agreement and the Glasgow Climate Pact, we need to bring all countries on board, from major nations like India and China to developing countries that need assistance to fight and adapt to climate change,” Steven Guilbeault, Canada’s Minister of Environment and Climate Change added.

    Industry Transition Dialogue and CIF Platform

    The day after, the Leadership Group for Industry Transition (LeadIT) initiative, co-launched by Sweden and India in 2019, and the World Economic Forum (WEF) organised a high-level meeting of government and business representatives to discuss the industrial transition.

    Participants repeated calls for financing the adoption of new technologies in a just and equitable way. Suggestions to accelerate the transition included creating an international carbon price, increased efforts to build expertise and capacity and helping to “de-risk” promising and existing innovations.

    The Dialogue resulted in three major announcements. First, South Africa and Japan officially joined LeadIT bringing the initiative’s membership to 18 countries and 19 companies. The First Movers Coalition, a global initiative supporting the decarbonisation of the heavy industry and a participant in the dialogue, welcomed two aluminium producers as its latest members: Novelis and Ball Corporation. Last but not least, Volvo, a member of the Coalition, unveiled the world’s first vehicle made of fossil-free steel.

    “Viable markets and economic models for decarbonised industrial production will be the tipping point for reaching Net Zero everywhere.” Emerging and developing economies must move quickly to make a transition so that “the markets for these decarbonised products have sufficient volume to create value chains of the sort that the First Movers Coalition is pioneering,” said Bhupender Yadav,  India’s Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

    On the same day, the Climate Investment Funds (CIF) launched the CIF Nature, People, and Climate (NPC) investment platform to pilot and scale nature-based solutions in developing countries. Building on CIF’s 12-year track record in climate finance mobilisation, NPC will deploy resources to de-risk and scale investments in sustainable land resources and ecosystems. The platform will take a “systems-level” approach rather than a project-by-project lens and invest in climate adaptation and mitigation projects, such as carbon sequestration.

    “The Climate Investment Funds exists to scale and pilot cutting-edge climate solutions in middle and low-income countries. Fewer solutions are as effective, scalable, or cost-efficient as those we derive from nature itself. Sustainable land use and ecosystems yield returns for people and planet, with the potential to remove 12 gigatons of greenhouse gasses every year, add over $2 trillion annually to the global economy, and generate millions of jobs. By investing in nature, we invest in the success of rural and Indigenous communities, sustainable supply chains, healthier coastlines, and climate-smarter food production. In short, we’re investing in a better world and honouring who we are,” Mafalda Duarte, CEO of the Climate Investment Funds, said on this occasion.

    Financing Plastics Circularity & Fossil Fuel Addiction

    Still on June 1st, the Swedish and US governments and the UNDP Alliance to End Plastic Waste organised a high-level round table discussion on Financing Plastics Circularity, together with politicians, business leaders, financial institutions and civil society.

    “Fifty years ago, plastic was considered ‘a revolutionary substance.’  It helped with medical advancements and product delivery.  Advertisements praised plastic as a saviour of elephants and tortoises,” Monica Medina, Assistant Secretary at the US Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs said at this event. “Now we know that the very characteristics that made it revolutionary are destroying the planet.  Most plastics never go away, and the world is drowning in it. Plastic pollution is a global crisis.  We must turn the tide and end plastic pollution now,” Medina added.

    The meeting took place on the same day as a new report from the Fossil Fuel Non-Proliferation Treaty Initiative warned that “fossil fuel addiction subverts every single sustainable development goal”. The study is informed by more than 400 academic articles, civil society reports and case studies and notes that “the exploration, extraction, refining, transportation and combustion of oil, gas and coal is making it impossible for the global community to meet the SDGs, threatening lives and livelihoods, and the ability of the planet to sustain human wellbeing”.

    The report also noted that the “oceans are also soaking up plastics in alarming quantities, of which 99% are made from fossil fuels. Globally, 400 million tonnes of plastic waste are produced each year with 14 million tonnes ending up in the ocean. Plastics now make up found from surface waters to deep-sea sediments.”

    The Main Event

    However, all of these events were but the backdrop to the main event, which was the actual Stockholm +50 High-Level Conference. During the first day of the conference, UN Secretary-General António Guterres (Pictured) warned that “Earth’s natural systems cannot keep up with our demands” and urged the delegates in attendance to “lead us out of this mess”. He described the “mess” threatening the global community as a “triple planetary crisis” caused by the climate emergency, biodiversity loss and pollution and waste.

    Addressing the conference, UN Environment Programme Executive Director Inger Andersen brought the ghosts of her generation’s mentors to haunt the attendees.  “If Indira Gandhi or Olof Palme were here today, what excuses would we offer up for our inadequate action? None that they would accept. They would tell us that further inaction is inexcusable. We know, more than ever, the terrible consequences of marching blithely further down the carbon-intensive development path we have gouged from the earth”, she added. “But we also know what we should do. And we know how to do it,” Andersen said.

    Sweden’s Prime Minister, Magdalena Andersson, spoke of the moral obligation of rich countries to help the developing world and of the strong demand for transformative climate action. Reminding the audience of Volvo’s achievement the day before, she noted that “industry demands [transformative climate action], because if it is to get new technology and new solutions in place quickly enough it needs political leadership that sets out the direction, and provides the right conditions. People demand it, because they see a risk of slipping behind or losing their jobs as demand for sustainable solutions, green energy, and new technologies increases,” Andersson argued as she opened the Stockholm +50 conference.

    Filipe Albuquerque
    Filipe Albuquerque
    Filipe is an economist with 8 years of experience in macroeconomic and financial analysis for the Economist Intelligence Unit, the UN World Institute for Development Economic Research, the Stockholm School of Economics and the School of Oriental and African Studies. Filipe holds a MSc in European Political Economy from the LSE and a MSc in Economics from the University of London, where he currently is a PhD candidate.
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