Updates in Mistra Carbon Exit – an SDSN Northern Europe Solution Initiative
We have chosen to highlight the Swedish research programme Mistra Carbon Exit as a Solution Initiative to inspire others to develop similar pathways for net zero greenhouse gas emissions.
Anders Ahlbäck from the SDSN Northern Europe secretariat is responsible for work-pack 5 of the programme: Integration and sustainability assessment. In the recently published annual report from the programme, this workpack was highlighted.
One plus 16 sustainability dimensions
As challenging as it may be to identify pathways to reach net zero carbon emissions, we are still only addressing one dimension of sustainability. What happens when we add 16 more?
Through the launch of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, actors across the globe were presented with an ambitious framework pinpointing major sustainability challenges of global relevance. These challenges are described as 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), all agreed upon by the UN member states. While the SDGs do not put forward new challenges per se, together they form an integrated and holistic agenda to drive sustainable development on all levels of society. The main implication is that we cannot cherry-pick or play whack-a-mole – that is, create solutions for specific SDGs that might pose problems to the implementation of others. Rather, these 17 dimensions of sustainability need to be addressed as a whole, which indeed poses a great challenge.
The transformative pathways developed in the Mistra Carbon Exit programme will help Swedish stakeholders achieve carbon neutrality by 2045 and, thus, the implementation of SDG 13 Climate Action. Given the scope, scale and ambition of the transformations – targeting buildings & infrastructure, transports and energy carriers – there is an urgent need to identify and evaluate trade-offs between Climate Action and other SDGs as well as potential synergies. This is the main aim of the SDG impact assessments carried out in the Mistra Carbon Exit programme, focusing on key components of the transformative pathways.
In collaboration with case study leaders, the following study objects for SDG assessments have been defined: (i) carbon neutral cement and concrete, (ii) electric vehicle batteries (EVB) and (iii) renewable energy technologies (RETs), specifically wind power, photovoltaics and bioenergy. The underlying rationale is that they are all essential within the scope of Mistra Carbon Exit to reach the goal of carbon neutrality by 2045. The methodological starting point is a structured approach to identify and characterise impacts from the study objects using the SDG Impact Assessment Tool1. For each case study and each SDG, the context, mechanism, magnitude and assessment of risks and opportunities in Sweden as well as abroad (spillovers) are assessed.
The assessments are carried out in a series of iterations, in a Delphi-inspired approach, aiming to increase confidence in each step. Case study leaders and associated expertise have during the autumn of 2019 provided initial input to workshops and will later be asked to give second opinions on a refined, reviewed and structured assessment. This spring the focus is to produce a first paper presenting the methodological approach and associated risks and opportunities of wind power linked to the SDGs.