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Canada can benefit from Swedish experience

June 4, 2014, Jönköping – On the first day of the World Bioenergy Conference in Jönköping, Sweden, the Canadians were treated to an afternoon of presentations about how Sweden built up its bioeconomy and the mistakes made in the process that Canada can avoid.


June 4, 2014
By Canadian Biomass

June 4, 2014, Jönköping – On the first day of the World
Bioenergy Conference in Jönköping, Sweden, the Canadians were treated to an afternoon of
presentations about how Sweden built up its bioeconomy and the mistakes made in
the process that Canada can avoid.

 

A small country that had to import all the oil and natural gas in use
but with a thriving forestry economy, Sweden saw that the smog and acid rain
from burning fossil fuels was killing its forests. Dependence on fossil fuels
also meant that a great deal of money was exported in order to feed this
dependence.

 

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Politicians took a brave stance and had a long-term vision of breaking
this dependency and reducing the smog and acid rain by heavily taxing polluters.
At the same time, they encouraged the use of wood as a building material and
redesigned some key communities that were inefficient and experiencing urban
decline.

 

In Canada, the motivations required to tip the public’s appetite for
change are more challenging to identify. We have our own sources of oil and gas
and reasons to keep these businesses running. We have vast forests and, though
smog is a problem in our major cities, there is also the belief that change is
expensive, unpopular with the public and risky.

 

The Swedish presenters were able to demonstrate a few things that
would spark some interest from Canadians. The first of which relates to job
creation. According to Arne Sandin, CEO of Bizcat, sustainable cities attract
businesses. Attracting new business and building more jobs was an offshoot of
the bio-developments that occurred in Sweden.

 

Bengt-Erik Löfgren, CEO of ÄFAB, said in order for a region
to shift to a sustainable model, it’s important to have stability and long-term
“general steering.”

 

“The use of locally produced biomass has reduced the
dependence on fossil fuels and has raised the GDP by 43 per cent,” said Löfgren.
He pointed out some impressive gains experienced in his town. Replacing fossil
fuel derived energy with locally sourced renewables added 23,650 jobs. Curbing
energy use has added 13,000 jobs and recycling has added 18,600 jobs.

 

Jönköping, the conference’s host city, was experiencing a decline in
the downtown core. Stores were closing and shopping was down by 20 per cent.
Urban dwellers in
Jönköping were drivers and less likely to take
alternative transportation than Swedes who lived in other cities. A long-term
vision was created that rerouted traffic out of the city core and replaced
parking lots with attractive multi-use facilities and parks. Now the city is a
thriving metropolis with healthy tourism and is growing. People walk the
streets, ride bikes and take public transit.

 

Jönköping’s success points to a shift in thinking and political
direction and Swedes are often talking about the legacy that they’re leaving
their children. But they’ve invested in new technologies and they’re benefiting
from this early investment with a booming bioeconomy. Like Sweden, Canada has a
lot of resources to work with if we can find the political will to put our
knowledge into practice.


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