Sweden has the goal of becoming a fossil-free welfare society with net-zero emissions by 2045. Achieving this goal will entail changes to Swedes’ consumption patterns as well as new practices. To identify ways to mitigate unintended impacts of the climate transition, and to secure political and public support for climate reforms, it is crucial to better understand how climate policies will impact on and be perceived by different groups in society.

In this paper, the authors review visions and strategies for Sweden’s transition to a fossil-free transport sector and food sector. These two sectors are crucial to Sweden’s climate targets and, and transition in these sectors will have impacts on the public.

The review shows that current policies and road maps leave large gaps in explaining how Sweden’s climate targets will be achieved. Decision makers need to address these gaps and uncertainties to better understand impacts on individuals and to develop appropriate policies for managing these impacts.

Key messages:

  • Achieving Sweden’s goal of becoming a fossil-free welfare society with net-zero emissions by 2045 will change people’s consumption patterns, particularly in the food and transport sectors, the two consumption categories with the highest emissions in Sweden.
  • Visions for a fossil-free transport sector have substantial gaps with respect to the challenges that rural populations may face in this transition. There is a clear need for strategies and policies that ensure that the transition to a fossil free welfare state does not have unfair impacts on rural populations.
  • There is also a lack of clarity on how consumers will be incentivized to switch from car use to public transport, cycling and walking. Planning and transparency on how national targets will be achieved is necessary for both effectiveness and securing legitimacy among the public.
  • The policy package recently proposed by the Swedish Government in response to surging fuel and electricity prices does recognize the different challenges urban and rural populations face in the transition to carbon neutral transport. This is a positive development, but at the same time the proposed policies risk prolonging incentives for choosing car transport and the use of fossil fuels. There is a clear need to find ways to mitigate the impacts of future price shocks or other shocks without pausing the transition to carbon neutral transport.
  • Visions for a fossil-free food sector lack aims for what climate friendly food consumption means and what changes to current consumption practices will be needed. Although consumption-based emissions are likely to be introduced in Sweden, more clarity is required from decision makers on 1) to what extent significantly reducing the climate impacts of food is a policy goal, and 2) what policy tools consumers can expect to be implemented to achieve significant changes to food choices.