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We need to change our behaviour to save the climate

If we are to achieve the Swedish Government’s environmental and climate goals we must reduce our consumption of natural resources and develop fossil-free fuels. These two measures must go hand in hand and one of the most important challenges facing us today is to change our behaviour.

The political debate regarding climate and the transport sector is often characterised by the discussion of which investments will prove most effective. On one side, taxes and subsidies as tools to reduce our travel, on the other, the development of new technologies to allow us to continue using airplanes and cars – but with fossil-free fuel in the tank. So, how do we get to grips with climate issues; can fossil-free fuels save our planet or must we change our behaviour?

“It is not a case of one or the other,” says Johanna Mossberg, focus area manager for fossil-free transport at RISE. Johanna explains that both types of measure have their benefits but will fall short if implemented separately. Initiatives must go hand in hand if we are to succeed.

Where are our company bicycles?

Technical developments in the field of biofuels must be supplemented by a more efficient transport sector and altered behaviour. This may be a matter of increasing the share of public transport, working from home to a greater extent, driving lighter cars with lower fuel consumption or streamlining freight transport through measures such as improved logistics and planning. According to Johanna Mossberg, all of these measures require that not only politicians but also individual citizens shoulder responsibility.

“It should be easy to do the right thing! For example, I find it odd that employees can have a company car, but not a company bicycle. We need financial incentives and controls that induce us to act and to make active choices.”

One active choice that we will soon be able to make is one that will face us when we refuel our vehicles.

“Sweden is well on the way to being the first nation in the world to label fuel pumps. Whenever you refuel, you will be able to see where the fuel originates and how great its climate impact is. You can make an active choice about which fuel you use at the pumps,” explains Johanna Mossberg.

One question that is often asked is how far Sweden’s resources will go towards a fossil-free transport sector and making us self-sufficient in renewable fuels. The answer to that question is that the resources at our disposal are sufficient to cover approximately 40% of current demand for fuel in the transport sector.

“Of course, 40% is insufficient if our goal is to be fossil-free; however, if we take a look at the vision and scenarios for the future, and taking into account all other measures, then one can say that we have sufficient biomass resources to meet the Government’s goal of a fossil-independent transport sector by 2030, and even to be a net exporter of biofuels.”

Commercial technology a must

At RISE, we are researching all conceivable areas of renewable, fuels. Everything from obtaining biogas from waste and byproducts, as well as manufacturing and upgrading lignin, to electrification and making our vehicle fleets and transport systems more efficient.  

“The technology has advanced over recent years and a number of new techniques are close to commercialisation. EU statistics for the share of renewables in the transport sector show that Sweden is far ahead of other countries in terms of using renewable fuels; now we must also work to become a leading producer of biofuels. RISE is part of this technological development and I am extremely proud of the work we do. Now we need to work even harder to scale up, demonstrate, disseminate and commercialise the technology,” says Johanna Mossberg, while at the same time emphasising the importance of simultaneous behavioural changes.

“While the technology has advanced, the transition to a more efficient society in terms of transportation has more or less stood still. If we are to achieve long-term success in meeting climate challenges, we must work in parallel on both tracks. We really need to change our behaviour and direction so that we reduce our need for energy at the same time as we develop and commercialise new technologies for fossil-free fuels,” concludes Johanna Mossberg.