The largest cement factory in Sweden is facing closure after a court ruling ordered it to stop mining limestone. The decision was dictated by concerns for the environment and caused ecologists to cheer but it could actually lead to a net increase in CO2 emissions.
Slite currently produces 75% of the country’s cement and is deemed Sweden’s second largest CO2 emitter. Yet, while shutting down completely or sourcing raw materials from elsewhere will certainly slash emissions and contribute to Sweden achieving its climate goals, it may prove to be making matters worse for the planet as a whole.
Namely, the need to import cement from countries outside of the EU that are already known to emit massive quantities of greenhouse gases as it is, will likely see a boost in those quantities. The decision could also result in staggering job losses in the construction industry in Sweden.
Sweden’s predicament is one in many of its kind that is set to be discussed during the upcoming U.N. COP26 climate talks in Glasgow and is an issue referred to as ‘carbon leakage’. ‘Carbon leakage’ constitutes the act of nations reducing their own emissions by, in fact, exporting their problem to countries with lower CO2 emission standards.
As the nation that has been leading international environmental rankings for years and has enforced the world’s highest carbon tax of $137 per tonne, Sweden has also successfully managed to preserve its economic growth while consistently working towards its target of net zero emissions by 2045.
But the current issue stemming from the potential closure of the Slite cement factory is an epitome for the escalating tensions between Paris Agreement targets and local environmental goals.
Sweden’s Minister for Environment and Climate Per Bolund has acknowledged the clash of these two competing factors along with the necessity to balance them.