By Lowana Veal
REYKJAVIK (IDN) – Leaders of the five largest Nordic countries recently announced support of the Nordic countries as a whole for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agreed under UN auspices.
The initiative, called Nordic Solutions to Global Challenges, was initially flouted in 2015 when the Paris Agreement on climate change and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development were adopted. As part of the Agenda, 17 SDGs were outlined.
Since the UN climate change in Paris in 2015 (COP 21), the programme has been further developed and was launched at a meeting of the Nordic Council of Ministers on May 30, attended by the Prime Ministers of Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and Finland.
One of the aims is to present Nordic knowledge of green transition, gender equality at work and sustainable food and welfare solutions, and to use the Nordic region to demonstrate that sustainable development does not have to interfere with economic growth
With funding amounting to almost 10 million euro, the two-year initiative involves six flagship projects, all based on the Nordic experience – energy solutions, climate solutions, sustainable cities, gender effect at work, welfare solutions and food policy lab – and addresses most of the SDGs.
Among them, the Nordic countries have substantial experience in solar, wind, hydro, geothermal and biomass power, and many of their solutions could be applied elsewhere.
Prioritised activities in the ‘energy solutions’ initiative include identifying gaps in policy, financing and technology for renewables in developing countries and ways in which to reduce these gaps in order to leverage further investments.
The aim is to complement rather than duplicate existing solutions and setups for the UN goal of ‘sustainable energy for all’ at both national and international levels.
The project will focus on a few specific countries in East Africa where Nordic governments, companies and other organisations are already involved and where scope for further expansion has been identified.
According to project coordinator Svend Søyland, although the ‘energy solutions’ initiative primarily addresses SDG 7 on ‘affordable and clean energy’, “it also serves as a key enabler for poverty reduction, improved health, education, gender equality, economic growth, sustainable cities and communities, and climate action (SDGs 2,3, 4, 5, 8, 11, 13). Finally, it realises the partnership approach (SDG 17) needed to realise all these goals.”
‘Climate solutions’ covers two aspects: Fossil Fuel Subsidy Reform (FFSR) and Nordic Green to Scale.
The ultimate goal of FFSR is to support voluntary reforms, preferably by introducing policies like carbon pricing or redistribution of budgetary savings as alternatives to climate mitigation and similar measures. Besides cutting emissions in the partner countries, this will also serve as inspiration for other developing countries that face similar conditions.
The Green to Scale programme involves scaling up 15 successful, existing climate solutions that are used in one or more of the Nordic countries, such as residential heat pumps, low-carbon energy in industry and manure management. If implemented widely in comparable countries, this initiative could save 4.1 Gt CO2 equivalents by 2030, or even more if countries extend their programmes beyond Nordic levels.
The ‘sustainable cities’ initiative, headed by Hans Fridberg, addresses SDG goal 11, ‘sustainable cities and communities. The programme will be run in close collaboration with national trade promotion agencies, clusters and businesses, and will highlight cooperation between Nordic stakeholders and increased opportunities for export. A conference in September will examine the role of the Nordic model in building the cities of the future.
Nordic countries have had a long-standing commitment to gender equality. The ‘gender effect at work’ programme is closely linked to SDGs 5 (‘gender equality’) and 8 (‘decent work and economic growth’).
“The [Nordic] region has proven that equal rights for women and men at work generate prosperity, productivity and economic development,” says Julia Fäldt-Wahengo, who launched the project idea and crafted the concept for it. As senior advisor, she now guides the work ahead, while project implementation is led and coordinated by Line Christmas Møller.
Like gender equality, health and welfare have always been cornerstones of Nordic society. “Welfare technology includes user-oriented technologies and robot solutions,” says Mona Truelsen, project manager of Nordic ‘welfare solutions’.
“With the Nordic countries leading healthcare transformation, new opportunities to bring solutions and concepts into the market have emerged. The healthcare transformation that the Nordic countries are undergoing creates opportunities to establish the solutions for future healthcare systems earlier than in other countries, where the transformation is not occurring at the same pace,” she explains.
Truelsen points to the extensive use of telemedicine and e-health systems, as well as making patient information accessible for all. “The Nordic countries are world leading at sustainable hospitals … Environmentally sustainable solutions have been developed in the Nordic region due to rigorous rules and regulations within areas such as construction and waste management,” she says.
Nordic ‘welfare solutions’ addresses SDGs 3 (‘good health and well-being’), 9 (‘industry, innovation and infrastructure’) and 12 (‘responsible consumption and production’).
The last flagship project, the Nordic ‘food policy lab’, is designed to encourage the use of Nordic policy solutions as a way of contributing to solving the food issues outlined as challenges in the SDGs. The intention is to educate consumers to take sustainability into account when making food choices.
Russian-Danish activist Selina Juhl established the highly successful Stop Wasting Food movement in Denmark in 2008 which has led to a huge reduction in food waste in Denmark.
“Selina’s work – along with other Nordic initiatives on food waste – is also going to be part of the work of Nordic Food Policy Lab,” says coordinator Mads Frederik Fischer-Møller.
“There is huge interest from abroad in our policies. I was in Holland last week and am currently in Scotland, talking both with parliament and government … the EU is very interested in a food waste approach, many countries are interested in nutrition and food culture policies. Local governments want to learn food innovation from New Nordic Kitchen. And I could go on. Overall, we believe there is most demand from developed countries (Europe, North America),” he adds.
Independently of the Nordic initiative, Sweden announced on June 15 that it will become carbon-neutral by 2045. Its Climate Act has the ultimate aim of no net greenhouse gas emissions by that date, but has also set new interim targets for 2030 and 2040.
Meanwhile, the first World Circular Economy Forum was held recently in Helsinki June 5-7) and was co-hosted by the Nordic Council of Ministers. The circular economy is widely seen as a key to achieving the UN 2030 Agenda and its associate SDGs.
Asked whether the circular economy comes into the Nordic Solutions to Global Challenges initiative in any way, Heidi Orava from the Nordic Council of Ministers replied: “The initiative as such is not about circular economy, but there is a no waste and resource efficiency perspective, for example in the food part.” [IDN-InDepthNews – 18 June 2017]
Photo: Leaders of the five largest Nordic countries announce support for sustainable development goals (SDGs). Credit: Nordic Cooperation
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