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Innovation Strategy for an Environment-friendly Society


  Mr. Chair, distinguished delegates,

  I’m going to give a short overview about the concept, innovation strategy for environment-friendly society, from our experience in Sweden.

  As we have heard this morning, innovation is a very broad concept, you can have almost every type of approach to it. It doesn’t matter if it is, I think, environment-friendly society or if it’s some other approaches for the innovation. It’s the policy framework, environmental policy, of course, when we talk about environment-friendly society. It is the institutional framework where I would like to put both authorities, public authorities, private institutions, but also research. And research is, I think, extremely important. And then it’s not only natural research, research in natural science, with when we talk about environmental issues, it’s always the part to find problems. It’s not only the technical science that can give solutions on some of the problems, but it’s also the social science, which, in fact, gives a scientific background for implementation. And in Sweden we have a special center of authority for innovation, the authority for innovation system established five years ago, who is going to improve this work. And the third cornerstone, that kind of course can be more, is the legislative framework, which is not only in this context, environmental regulations, it’s also the legislative framework when we talk about intellectual property rights and such things. And these frameworks we have found are very important to have in place and clear.

  It has already been mentioned, I think, both in the background papers I hear in this morning, that we see three steps when we talk about innovations. The first is, in fact, perhaps the most simple one but sometimes forgotten, to use the existing best available technique. I think it’s the existing technology can be used, and we have many areas, for example, in waste stabilization, where we don’t need to spend too much money and time on research and science. The second one is, in fact, to use existing technique and technology in another context. We have many areas where we can see that, for example, the basis for the particle filters in the diesels engine we have today is coming from quite another area. So it’s in many cases where we can use existing technology but in the context of development of the environment-friendly society. And the last step is, of course, to develop new technology. And that is, of course, especially for science, the scientific community, the most challenging part, perhaps the two first is more for the policy and the public part to take care of.

  And now I would like to mention the most important driving forces we have found. Sweden has been working in the field of environment for many decades now, and there are many reasons for that. One reason is that we had acid rain and desertification in the north, we are in the north, or the northern hemisphere. We also have very much problem with contamination of pollutants in the Baltic, which a huge inland sea we share together with many other countries. And I think that’s some of the main reasons why we started rather early to work with the environment. And what we have found, it’s most important driving forces is, first of all, the holistic and system approach to the problem. Many of environmental problems as we have found is, of course, can be, the direct problem is single pollutant, but why do we have this pollutant, for example, in the Baltic create problems. And that is, by backtracking, you found it’s something which, in fact, clues the whole society. So a holistic and system approach is absolute necessary to all minds. Then we need to have an environmental policy and environmental objectives in place, and this, in our case, is very much based on research and environmental monitoring. And we have now, since 7 years back, 16 overall covering 16 environmental objectives decided by the Swedish Parliament as the driving force not only for the public sector, but also we can see it’s a driving force also for the private sector.

  Legislation, which is the ultimate policy response of what, for example, has been found as an environmental problem is, of course, very important to have in place. Just a short reference to the speech we heard from Mr. Liu earlier is that we, since chemicals, we could see different pollutants create problems. In Sweden, we put our chemical legislation in place at the end of the 1980’s, where we have chemical management and also where can see we have from this legislation and driving force in the private sector, trying to find new solution to for the areas where they use chemicals, but more environment-friendly chemicals.

  Economic instruments, which we find, I mean, in general terms, it’s to establish economic instruments, so it make it cheap to be environment-friendly. It’s very simple saying so, but it’s not so simple in reality. But to introduce pricing mechanisms of different kind, taxes, for example, some incentives we haven’t experienced that some incentives can be not so good because they can lock in the system, so the innovation will stop. So it’s very important that these mechanisms of economic instruments are neutral to technology but focus on the environment.

  Green procurement has also been mentioned in the status report from the task force. It’s extremely important to have, for example, the procurement from the public sector is enormous big, I think, in most countries, and can have a very important role as a driving force. And it’s, for example, based on environmental management schemes, certifications of different kinds and also standards. And I would like to especially to mention the OECD standards for environment in different areas that is really important.

  Competition. The Swedish association for the Swedish big companies in Sweden, they produce the report to the Johannesburg Meeting named “From Reactive to Proactive”. And they have found that in the beginning, perhaps they were too reactive, but now they have shifted to be proactive. And where many big companies in Sweden, even if we are a very small country, we have some really big companies who are Swedish companies. And normally today, they use legislation as the bottom line, and then they add an environmental policy defined by themselves to be better than what is demanded from the legislation.

  What we can see more and more, of course, as a driving force of innovation, is the need for natural resources, they are limited, and there is also, of course, a driving force for innovation for circular economy, as mentioned here, or to have this circulation and close many of the industrial systems.

  Public awareness, I think it’s also very important driving forces in Sweden, and it’s, of course, connected to the competition part, where the companies would like to compete with each other not only with the quality of the product, but also how it is produced, and with the life cycle perspectives.

  Cooperation, interaction between the research sector, private sector and the public sector, I will go into that soon, but I just would like to mention another thing, which I think it’s important, and maybe we don’t have developed that yet so much. And that is indicators on all levels for monitoring. If we have success or failure in this innovation system, does it give the results we want, we are looking for or not? We also have processes going on with the European Union in this area, the environmental technology action plan, I just would like to mention that, and we’ll see what that means, we means for the innovation in this area.

  But I would like to, just very shortly, present to you what we nowadays call triple helix. It was, it’s in fact nothing new, because I think this cluster engine for innovation based on close cooperation and interaction is exactly what we did decades ago when we developed, we have car factories, factories producing airplanes and so on. And that is to put the research sector, the private sector and the public sector together, and they are working as a cluster engine for innovation. And where the research sector, mostly in Sweden, we have the universities give the science and scientific development. The public sector is very much involved regarding what belongs to the private sector, legislation such things, but also the money part. And then the private sector, where we can find the entrepreneur side of it, so we can put this innovation not only to solve problem in Sweden, but put innovations on the market. And this concept has been very successful up to now, and we are continuing working with it as an engine for innovation. But it means that it has to be established on equal footing so these three bodies, they are working together in close cooperation, but on equal footing. And it had to be clear from the beginning, what’s going to happen with new technologies, when they are emerged, who will take care of them, who owns everything about this intellectual property rights and such things. That had to be clear in the beginning.

  Looking for the future then, where we have the challenges to talking about innovations. I mean the overall concept of this, of course, to decoupling economic growth from environmental pressure. And that is not only when we talk about climate change and emissions, green house gases and such things. That is a general approach, how to decouple economic growth from environmental pressure. And that is not an easy task, as we all know.

  Sustainable use of natural resources. I think we have much more to do in this area, where we really can say we have sustainable use of natural resources. We can connect that to sustainable development. But in general terms, I would like to say that very much what we are talking about is the quality of life, as a concept.

  Traditional pollutants. They need, of course, full attention in the future. They are tackled by cleaning, closing systems, and in the industry, recycling, substitution and such things. I also think it’s worthwhile to mention that we must learn lessons from the past, and we have emerging issues that we need to keep an eye on, and that is, for example, environmental impact from nanotechnology. Because now we can see an unbalance in the development of an innovation around nanotechnology concept, but the environmental side, it’s not following so much. And I think just our early experience we all have, not only Sweden, is that we need to keep an eye so we don’t create problems, environmental problems, or human problems perhaps is more important when we talk about nanotechnology. That is only one example.

  Also another challenge is, of course, what’s called sustainable production and consumption patterns. And that is also an area where within the European Union we have some steps taken, it’s very difficult, I think that’s sustainable production is perhaps more simple concept, compare to sustainable consumption. But anyway, I think that sustainable consumption and production is a concept that needs really more innovation and more innovative approach. How to solve, because we have to go in that direction, that’s absolutely clear.

  And finally, as everyone is talking about today, of course, the emissions of green house gases. That is, of course, much more problematic than, for example, the traditional pollutants. And maybe also like the sustainable use of natural resources. Because it’s a horizontal issue, it’s covering more or less all the society activities, and we cannot work with this if we don’t have a system approach or holistic approach to the problem. It’s, as we are all closely related to economic growth, necessary that solution must be based on decoupling. But finally, we are very much from, then I’m talking working with environment in Sweden, very much focused on how this problem will be solved. Today perhaps it’s sometimes too much one-sided focused on mitigation that can create problems in other areas. For example, when we talk about the production of different kind of bio-fuels. And I think that the green house gases, as also effect of all the other environment problems, really, really need this, when we talk about innovation, to solve this, really needs again a holistic and system approach where we’re covering the whole society. So finally innovation covers more or less everything, but this is just a short presentation of our experiences in Sweden.

  Thank you very much for your attention.

   Based on recording




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