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The Kingdom of Sweden is considered to have the sixth highest standard of living in the world, according to the United Nations Development Programme Human Development Reports. This high ranking is likely due to the mixture of a strong market economy harnessed in support of substantial social welfare programs. The population of 9,001,774 enjoy a per capita income of $29,600. In 1995 Sweden joined the European Union (EU), but in 1999 the Swedish people voted against adopting the euro. Sweden is rich in natural resources, with timber, hydropower, and iron ore providing substantial trade revenue. Other resources include lead, zinc, gold, silver, tungsten, uranium, arsenic, and feldspar.
Bordering on the Baltic Sea, the Gulf of Bothnia, the Skagerrak (an offshoot of the North Sea), and Kattegat (a bay of the North Sea and a continuation of the Skagerrak), Sweden’s coastline runs for 3,218 miles (5,181 kilometers). In the south, the climate is temperate with cold winters and cool summers. In the north, the climate is subarctic. In the winter, ice floes, particularly in the Gulf of Bothnia, pose a maritime threat. Except for the mountains in the western section of the country, Sweden is generally flat with gently rolling lowlands.
Sweden’s industries produce acid rain that damages soils and lakes. Industry is also responsible for the pollution found in the North and Baltic Seas. Despite these problems, a 2006 study by Yale University ranked Sweden second of 132 countries in environmental performance, well above the averages for the relevant income and geographic groups. Sweden’s lowest rankings were in the areas of air quality and biodiversity and habitat. Over 83 percent of the Swedish population live in urban areas. With 452 cars per 1,000 people, Sweden produces 0.2 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions. The Swedish government has protected 9.1 percent of the land. Only two of 259 bird species endemic to Sweden are endangered, but seven of 60 endemic mammal species are threatened with extinction.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created in 1967 to implement Sweden’s Environmental Code. Under the EPA, the Enforcement and Regulations Council is in charge of compliance. As specified in the Environmental Code, there are five special environmental courts that issue permits for activities that affect the environment. Generally, administrative orders and individual fines are sufficient to assure compliance. Any criminal activities affecting the environment are enforced by the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
In 1999, the Swedish government established 15 environmental goals based on five principles: Promoting human health, preserving the cultural environment and cultural heritage, preserving biological diversity and the natural environment, preserving the long-term productivity of ecosystems, and wise management of natural goals. Fifteen specific areas were targeted, and Sweden committed itself to meeting the goals for all 15 areas by the middle of the 21st century. The country’s EPA issued a Status of the Environment Report in January 2002 assessing Sweden’s progress (1996-2001) toward achieving the long-term goals. Significant progress was made in improving air quality, reducing acidification levels, protecting the ozone layer, protecting wetlands, sustaining forests, varying agricultural land, and slashing the rate of eutrophication to zero. However, little progress was made in improving the balance of the marine environment. Pollution rates in other areas such as providing a nontoxic environment and protecting lakes and streams remained relatively stable.
Sweden’s strong commitment to the global environment is demonstrated by participation in the following international agreements: Air Pollution, Air Pollution-Nitrogen Oxides, Air Pollution-Persistent Organic Pollutants, Air Pollution-Sulfur 85, Air Pollution-Sulfur 94, Air Pollution-Volatile Organic Compounds, Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Kyoto Protocol, Law of the Sea, Marine Dumping, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, and Whaling.
- Central Intelligence Agency, “Sweden,” The World Factbook, www.cia.gov (cited April 2006);
- Winston Harrington et al., Choosing Environmental Policy: Comparing Instruments and Outcomes in the United States and Europe (RFF Press, 2004);
- Kevin Hillstrom and Laurie Collier Hillstrom, Europe: A Continental Overview of Environmental Issues (ABC-CLIO, 2003);
- Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, de Facto 2001 (Elanders Gummessons, Falkoping, 2002);
- United Nations Development Programme, “Human Development Reports: Sweden,” hdr.undp.org;
- United Nations Environment Programme, Europe Regional Report: Chemicals (Global Environment Facility, 2002).