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Nordic countries join Obama in shunning dirty energy

President Barak Obama met with the Swedish king and queen to agree a move to low carbon technology

Nordic countries will accelerate the move to renewables. (Pic: Dirk Goldhahn)

Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden will join the United States in reducing the use of fossil fuels and funding coal plants overseas, except in rare circumstances.

President Barak Obama met with King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia of Sweden before flying to St. Petersburg for the G20 Summit yesterday to accelerate the transition to low-carbon energy systems worldwide.

The joint statement from Obama’s office and Sweden said: “We underscore the importance of continuing to encourage innovative approaches to promoting energy efficiency and clean energy, including renewables, and of taking action on climate change, domestically and internationally. This requires mobilizing scaled up climate finance.”

The announcement from these countries also signals a possible change in political will at the international climate negotiations, which next meet in November in Poland, which has been criticised for the proposed construction of the largest coal plant in Europe.

WWF is calling on the Norwegian sovereign wealth fund to move away from coal and tar sands financing and to allocate 5% of its portfolio to renewable energy.

The NGO said countries like Sweden must make the same shift within its state pension funds, where a large majority of energy investments today go to coal, oil and gas.

The Norwegian sovereign wealth fund is the world’s largest, and has investments in coal and oil with emissions equivalent to more than 108 times the emissions of Norway.

The joint US/Sweden statement said: “Recognizing the rapid growth of the Climate and Clean Air Coalition over its first 18 months, we note the potential of the Coalition to catalyze significant global reductions of short-lived climate pollutants, which have major impacts on climate change and public health.”

Coal backtrack

In July, the US agreed a plan of action to cut pollution from vehicles and power stations with China.

A recent Deutsche Bank report calculated that a total of 28GW of old coal power capacity could come offline in Europe between 2012 and 2020 and expected to fall by 3% in the final three months of this year.

According to analysts at Argus, total US coal exports to Europe fell to 4.2 million short tonne from 5.2 million short tonne a year earlier.

For the first time, existing gas and coal fired power plants, which account for 43% of US emissions, will face tougher pollution limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a move Obama says will help the USA to meet its pledge to cut emissions 17% below 2005 levels by 2020.

July also saw the World Bank agree to limit financing of coal-fired power plants to “rare circumstances,” along with the European Investment Bank.

Other banks like the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development is under fire for the continued support of coal plants, reportedly setting aside half of its funding for fossil fuel projects.

WWF’s Samantha Smith said in a statement: “The need to act is great and the time to act is now. We are calling on financial institutions – both public and private – to commit US$40 billion in new investments into renewable energy by June 2104, and to phase out investments in fossil fuels through a just transition.

“WWF also calls on the Nordic countries themselves to make the change in their national investments, which are substantial,” added Smith.

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