Maria Gardfjell on the Climate Change Meeting in Paris

Photo: Cathy Limacher
As world leaders meet in Paris to battle climate change, municipalities still play a crucial role, according to Maria Gardfjell, the Green Party’s first Vice-President in Uppsala. Uttryck sat down with Gardfjell to talk about the Conference and the importance of local solutions.
Uttryck: On October 30th, the United Nations released a report saying that the layout preparing the conference, will only lead to maintain global warming at 2.7 degrees, when the original goal is 2 degrees. Then, governments should make more efforts in their negotiations. So, it doesn’t seem we are in the right path for the conference…
Maria Gardfjell (MG): Well, I hope they will make more efforts. I think it’s very important to have very high goals. For example, here in Uppsala, for the last three years we had a goal with 32 companies and universities in the climate protocol we have, to reach 4,5 percent of climate gases and we eventually reached 11 percent! And before we put this goal, all people thought it was impossible but in the end it was easy to reach it. Actually, the goal setting is very important to get a movement running to get some action done. And when all kinds of different actors start working together it can be easy. And now, the forerunners are the researchers with some companies, not the governments. And it’s very good.
Uttryck: Since the previous conferences about Climate Change have quite failed, such as Doha or Kyoto, why would the conference work this time?
MG: This is a good question. When she was here a month ago, Åsa Romson, the Minister for Climate and Environment, told us that the layout for the conference in Paris is very different compared to before. She said that now, all the states and organizations would not like to compete with each other but rather seek how everyone can contribute more.
Uttryck: But do you think during the countries will stick to this layout?
MG: We will see. I think it’s probably easier when you have the idea that everyone can contribute. Also, the member states can have different actors within their states to announce how they will contribute. For example, the Swedish municipalities, in a way we tell the government how we can contribute more.
Uttryck: How can Swedish municipalities contribute more to the fight against climate change?
MG: Actually, a lot of the work to reduce the climate gases is part of the municipalities’ role. We can cooperate with the industry, within different sectors and we can also, in a good way, show our government how we can do it. For example, in energy, we have a company here in Uppsala called Vattenfall, which is a heat combustion company. Together with the municipality they decided to change the burning with fossil fuels.
Uttryck: So you are saying that the municipal level can influence the regional level and maybe the national level… What do you think about all these climate marches organized in cities all around the world? Do you think people at a small scale can actually pressure governments?
MG: Absolutely. I don’t think it will influence so much, but it shows that the people in general are involved in this project and support it. It won’t pressure the governments in a fast way so-to-speak, but when you are a government who will go to Paris in December, you can have easier influence when you show that people are supporting you. It’s a little bit psychological maybe but in politics you should never say that psychology is not important…
Uttryck: Then what would be the role played by Sweden in the Conference?
MG: The most important thing right now is what the Swedish government has said in the Declaration of Government made every year: Sweden will be the first fossil-free nation. And, not only the first fossil-free nation, but also the first welfare nation.
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Maria Gardfjell was accompanied by her advisor Ander Mankler, who whispered answers to her from time to time during the interview. Photo: Cathy Limacher
Uttryck: And when is Sweden expected to reach this goal?
MG: There is no date (laugh), Sweden will only be the first. What is important with this statement is not that it sounds good but it’s also important to compare the work for the climate and the work for welfare. Of course you can reduce the climate gases and make people poor. But that’s not the issue, the issue is to go on with the welfare state and also keep going with welfare.
Uttryck: But concretely, what can Sweden suggest at the conference?
MG: That’s a good question but I am not actually part of the [national] government, it’s not about what’s done in Paris but what’s done in Stockholm. We can only give example through the policies we implement. We can show we have strong climate policies and then influence the conference.
Uttryck: You talked about climate cooperation with companies, here in Uppsala. Is it a common thing for the Swedish municipalities?
MG: No it’s not. We work together with universities, 32 companies and the environmental movements. In this group we regularly meet and we have this kind of Kyoto Protocol where we see how we can reach the common goals we have for climate in the municipality, such as the reduction of climate gases.
Uttryck: Do you know if other municipalities have done the same in Sweden?
MG: Some similar work has been done but no one has really implemented what we did. But if you look at all it’s mostly cities and regions which are moving quickly. Cities and regions are more progressive than the national level on environmental policies. Maybe, because it’s easier to reach consensus.
Interview by Marie Zafimehy on October 30th 2015.