For the coming 2022 election, the local branches of the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation, Fridays For Future, Friends of the Earth and Extinction Rebellion have together taken the initiative to conduct a survey about the local political parties' climate and environmental policy in Umeå municipality.
The climate crisis has led several associations to investigate what the parliamentary parties want to do and prioritize in climate and environmental policy. The situation for the climate and biodiversity is urgent, which requires courageous decisions from our politicians, even at the local level. The forthcoming term of office will be crucial for achieving the climate goals of the Paris Agreement.
About the survey
The questionnaire, which was sent out to all parties with representatives in the City Council, seeks answers to how the parties are concretely positioned and reason regarding a number of issues that are of great importance for achieving the climate goals. The purpose is for voters in the municipality to get an overview of the parties' stand in these issues. In addition, for the voters to get an overall picture of which climate and environmental policy measures the parties are prioritizing during the coming term.
The survey includes 16 questions with three-answer alternatives (Yes, No and "the Party has not taken a position on this / Do not know", which is shown as "*" in our table) and a call to justify the answer. The last 17th question was an open question in which each party was asked to state and justify the five most effective climate measures that they intend to pursue in the coming term.
A "Yes" is interpreted as the will and intention to prioritize what is currently considered important, to contribute to an environmentally sustainable development. A first summary of the parties' climate and environmental policies can be read from the number of "Yes"- answers, which is illustrated in the figure below.
The questions of the survey and the answers with justifications are also presented per question here and per party here (in Swedish).
The parties' answers to the multiple-choice questions and the question on their five most effective climate measures are presented in Swedish here.
The parties' answers to the multiple-choice questions
The figure indicates that Miljöpartiet (MP) and Vänsterpartiet (V) are the parties that primarily prioritize measures to contribute to climate-sustainable development. MP has answered Yes to all 16 real alternative questions and V has answered Yes to 13 of them.
Four parties can be said to have a reasonably positive attitude to prioritizing climate measures: Liberalerna (L), Centerpartiet (C), Arbetarpartiet (AP) and Socialdemokraterna (S).
The three remaining parties have significantly more "No"-answers than the others, which can be interpreted as Sverigedemokraterna (SD), Kristdemokraterna (KD) and Moderaterna (M) prioritizing environmental and climate measures lower than other questions.
Our final assessment of the parties' answers and their top five proposals for action can be found further down.
Summary: Assessment of the parties' climate and environmental policy
The answers and justifications for the question 1-16 and which climate measures to prioritize (question 17) for the coming term are summarized and assessed below.
The results are presented from the highest to the lowest ambition to work for an environmentally sustainable development, by effective and practically feasible climate measures.
Miljöpartiet has answered yes to all 16 multiple-choice questions and shows in the justifications that they have a high ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and are willing to implement measures that can make it less convenient for motorists but can provide benefits for pedestrians, bicycles and public transport. They are also willing to strongly reduce the number of business trips by air within the municipal organization. The MP has a restrictive view of exploiting the I20 forest and is critical of the goal of 200,000 inhabitants by 2050. The MP also provides relatively detailed comments in almost all of their responses. In the last question about the most important climate measures they want to invest in, they are clearly ambitious but they do not mention concrete numbers nor measures with deadlines such as expansion of public transport with BRT (high-speed buses with own lanes). This is also the case for the investigation of building tram lines in combination with limiting car traffic, environmental zone, new commuter train lines, create a more sustainable construction sector and create BioCCS at Dåva.
Vänsterpartiet has given the answer yes to 13 of the questions and has a high ambition to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They are willing to implement measures that provide benefits for pedestrians, bicycles and public transport at the expense of car traffic. Like MP, they are willing to sharply reduce the number of business trips by air within the municipal organization. Regarding the I20 forest, V is willing to build a residential area in the area inside the link but does not mention what they think about the area outside the link. V were not so detailed in their comments, sometimes they do not motivate at all. In the last question, V often advocates numerical and relatively concrete measures from both the state and the municipality: 700 billion in adjustment support over a period of 10 years to meet climate change; A proper restructuring of industry through restructuring support from the state; Halved fare on all public transport; Rapid and rapid expansion of GC roads and public transport solutions; As a municipality, actively work for a reduction in business travel by air by 95% within one year.
Arbetarpartiet has provided 5 "Yes"-answers and prioritize investments in green industrial production, more sustainable construction, smarter urban planning and coordinated goods transport to reduce transport needs. Also, increased public transport and lower ticket prices. At the same time, the party is reluctant to invest in more municipal climate strategists or to phase out car lanes in favor of cycle lanes, bus lanes and greenery. AP is critical of the target of 200,000 inhabitants, which they believe is used as a strategy to exploit land close to the beach and valuable cultural environments and force towerblock apartment constructions in the city center. AP is a party that is difficult to assess, they express a strong criticism of urban planning and the environmental policy pursued in the council, while they do not really concretize their own proposals. The measures that AP intends to prioritize are mainly general (green industrial production and coordinated goods transport) and are judged to be able to contribute to environmentally sustainable development in the long term, but probably not significantly during the next term. Perhaps AP still have the strongest will for serious climate policy after MP and V.
Socialdemokraterna has given 10 "Yes"-answers and have by far the largest number of explanations for their answers, thus showing a willingness to get involved in the work with climate measures. S wants to prioritize a restructuring of the industry, which includes building a sustainable infrastructure to reduce emissions, including at Dåva. They also want to prioritize an adjustment of the transport system and prioritize reducing consumption emissions. S wants the municipality to drive society's transformation. S has a certain strength in the ambition to use urban planning to favor the sustainable modes of transport but at the same time clings to the faith that the densification of the city is the answer to almost every problem. S has a strong belief in growth and the goal of 200,000 inhabitants and that this should be possible to reach while maintaining social sustainability. S believe in continuing on the established line overall and in expanding public transport in the long term. They want to continue the electrification and are diffusely endorsing a circular economy and shared services, suggestions that risks having a weak effect and does not show a real understanding of how urgent it is to reduce emissions significantly.
Liberalerna has the most "Yes"-answers (12) after MP and V and believe that radical measures are required to reach the goals, but has few justifications for the answers and show no clear will to prioritize climate measures before other values. L wants to see financial incentives for behavioral change among citizens, wants to promote biological diversity and preserve usable agricultural land and increase the degree of self-sufficiency, but does not concretize clear measures and therefore appears to have a weaker climate policy than the number of "Yes"-answers indicates.
Centerpartiet has given 9 "Yes"- answers and prioritizes reducing the use of fossil fuels and wants to provide benefits for more sustainable traffic. C wants to optimize the municipality's forestry so that a maximum of CO2 is sequestered, increase carbon sequestration in fallow land by cultivating and using it, and introduce a CO2 factor when procuring transport so that lower emissions are favored. They are not willing to reduce costs for public transport, but prefer an improved supply. They want to reduce car traffic and to some extent want to phase out lanes for car traffic in favor of bicycle lanes, bus lanes and green areas. C does not want to hire more climate strategists or reduce business trips by plane within the municipal organization. Several of the answers have been left without justification, which can be interpreted as a weak interest in climate policy.
Moderaterna, Kristdemokraterna och Sverigedemokraterna have given very few "Yes"-answers (M: 3, KD: 5 and SD: 3). These parties prioritize sustainable development to some extent, but predominantly prioritize the opposite direction as the parties often argue against possible climate ambitions for the municipality. Mostely, the parties focus only on the electrification of transport (M and KD) and industry (KD) and prioritize locally produced goods (rather than organic). M wants to continue to expand public transport throughout the municipality, so that more people can choose to take public transport and develop the pedestrian and bike routes in the municipality. KD wants to invest in increased fossil-free electricity production via nuclear power and small-scale hydropower. SD wants to reduce international transport and travel, maintain green areas and productive forests. All three parties let cost-effectiveness and convenience become obstacles to invest in measures that can reduce climate emissions sharply and quickly.
Conclusion and outlook
What can we expect from the parties going forward? - Do the parties' answers agree with the pursued policy? In order to get an idea of the parties' actual priorities regarding environmental issues, we will now look back at how politics has been in Umeå over the past 4 years.
In early 2022, the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation ordered an independent review of Umeå's environmental policy during the previous term, when S and MP ruled in minority. The review covered eight different environment related areas: aviation, travel, cleaner air, sustainable food, nature conservation, consumption, energy and local climate goals. The results were presented in a.report.
The report shows that MP and V are the parties that primarily acted to contribute to environmentally sustainable development. The S have contributed with some measures, but have also pursued a policy against unsustainable development and voted down climate-friendly proposals.
C has partially committed to sustainable development, but has also acted in the opposite direction. The L, KD and AP are described as passive on many issues, even if they have acted to some extent for sustainable development.
SD and the M are considered to have contributed the least to an environmentally sustainable Umeå, as the parties have either been passive or tried to lower the municipality's environmental ambitions.
In summary, we see a pattern: parties that answered "yes" to many of the questions in the survey also show a higher level of ambition in their policies. On the contrary, parties who answered "no" to many of the survey questions show a weaker ambition in the pursued policy according to the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation's report.
Lack of ambition to follow the science and quickly switch to zero emissions within the carbon dioxide budget
If we are to take our full responsibility, Sweden (including Umeå!) must have almost completely stopped emitting greenhouse gases by 2030 in order to prevent the most devastating consequences of climate change. Humanity's livelihood and security are directly dependent on ecosystem balances.
An important perspective from climate research that is clearly evident from recent years' reports from the international climate panel (IPCC) is that it is the accumulated emissions of carbon dioxide that determine global warming. Each year's emissions of carbon dioxide are added to the historical emissions into the atmosphere. Some of the emissions are taken up by plants and oceans but a large part remains in the atmosphere and contributes to an increased greenhouse effect. For this reason, the time aspect is crucial. A measure that removes carbon dioxide emissions in the near term is much more effective than investigating and deciding on measures later. Continued emissions in the near term mean that emissions must decrease much more rapidly in the longer term. This is what the principle of a carbon dioxide budget means, see for example: Why should we budget for carbon dioxide? Anders Heggestad from Klimatsekretariatet explains - https://youtu.be/9FaRCqnMiUU
Based on this perspective and how the parties in Umeå acted in climate-related decisions during the past mandate period, we see that even the parties that express a desire to act for emission reductions cannot be trusted when it comes to acting with sufficient speed and force to be able to deliver results that could be in line with the global climate goals. This is clearest with the SD, who have a relatively high level of rhetorical ambition but who in their actions often reject initiatives that want to speed up measures, instead referring to existing programs or continued investigations and thus letting valuable time pass. In practice, S most likely ends up in the same line as M. Nor have any of the other parties (that claim to have high climate ambitions) come up with a sufficiently clear and quantified action plan that could deliver what is required.
The parties' prioritized action plans and their justifications for the answers in the survey lead us to this final assessment of how they are able to contribute to climate- and environmentally sustainable development during the next term:
MP and V have the greatest potential. This still does not mean that they have sufficient proposals for measures, they would have to formulate more concrete, numbered and timed measures for a plan that could make Umeå meet its carbon dioxide budget.
AP, S , L and C communicate some willingness to tackle climate change but do not give these issues top priority. There is a lack of speed and ambition to keep the carbon dioxide budget.
M, KD and SD do not give climate and environmental issues a higher priority than economic efficiency and convenience.
Climate election Umeå 2022
If you are an EU citizen and have been registered in Umeå kommun for more than 30 days, you can vote in the regional election the 11th of September.
You who vote in the election are making an important choice for the climate and nature.
You also have a choice to do more than that.
Help us raise our voice for a tougher climate and environmental policy!
We are the climate and environmental movement in Umeå: