With a broader perspective and systemic thinking, Sweden can emerge as a leader in the transition away from fossil fuels, argues Henrik Carlsen, Co-Director of Mistra Geopolitics and SEI Senior Research Fellow.
Swedish companies possess a unique capacity and ability to develop intricate products by integrating numerous high-tech components into advanced systems. If we use our skills effectively and develop a vision of what we aspire to contribute, it unveils immense potential for the green transition.
It is not enough to replace the internal combustion engine and the gas tank with electric motors and batteries. We must start asking fundamental questions about what transport is and what our needs really are,” wrote Dr Henrik Carlsen, Co-Director of Mistra Geopolitics and SEI Senior Research Fellow.
Many eyes are now directed towards the social transformation taking place in northern Sweden. The focus is on electrification, however much else is also underway, for example investments in fossil-free steel. But achieving success in the transition requires an even broader perspective.
To meet the climate goals and stop the loss of biodiversity, it is not enough to make small, piecemeal adjustments in only a few sectors of our society. A much deeper and more comprehensive change is required. We need to change man’s relationship with nature.
Over the past 50 years, humans have transformed 75 percent of the Earth’s land surface and significantly impacted 85 percent of our wetlands. Now it’s time to perceive ourselves as integral parts of nature, rather than external entities draining the system for short-term gains.
Changing agendas for people, society and technology
Addressing this challenge requires innovation at the societal level. This means that we must rethink how technology, society and people influence each other. It is not enough to replace the internal combustion engine and gas tank with electric motors and batteries. We must start asking ourselves fundamental questions about what transport is, and how the entire transport system can be transformed.
Our total impact must be reduced
A transition away from fossil fuels must not mean that we reduce our footprint in one place but increase it in others. Our total impact on the environment must be reduced. Achieving this shift necessitates concerted efforts from all societal actors pushing in the same direction. Here, Swedish industry has a unique opportunity to take a global leadership position.
Our ability to innovate at a high-system level is required for societies to restructure in a more comprehensive and environmentally sustainable way. In this transformation, the state must play a much more active role,” Dr Henrik Carlsen wrote.
Swedish engineering is characterized by design and technology development at a high system level. Sweden has been the birthplace of many innovations in different industries, from vehicles and telecommunications to pharmaceuticals and advanced defense systems like the JAS Gripen fighter jet.
In addition, in Sweden there is an ability to collaborate with government actors. A classic example of this is the collaboration between the information and communication company Ericsson and Televerket, a Swedish State Authority that formerly had responsibility for telecommunications. Few nations can rival Sweden’s prowess when it comes to this matter.
It is precisely this ability for high-level systemic innovation that is needed for a more comprehensive restructuring of society. In this transformation, the state must also play a much more active role. Historically, the state has often played a central role as an engine of innovation, let us use that opportunity again!
Mistra Geopolitics team
Henrik Carlsen is a Senior Research Fellow at the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and Programme Director of Mistra Geopolitics. Currently Dr. Henrik Carlsen is leading the Mistra Geopolitics research theme Foresight Capabilities and Emerging Technologies. He is an expert on decision making under uncertainty, with an emphasis on climate change adaptation. His research interests are based on the intersection between science and policy on long-term challenges to society.
Ylva Rylander is the press contact for Mistra Geopolitics. Ylva is a Communications and Impact Officer at Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI). As a core member of SEI’s communications team and previous Press Officer of SEI, Ylva writes and edits press releases and creates news stories. With over 15 years of experience in public relations, awareness raising and external communication, she also provides strategic advice to SEI and Mistra Geopolitics researchers to help them maximize the impact of their research.
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