1. POLICY SETTING
Environmental, climate and energy policy in Sweden is under the responsibility of the Ministry of the Environment and Energy, coordinated and implemented through different government agencies. Several of these government agencies are involved in the Swedish development of Green Infrastructure (GI), most notably the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (Naturvårdsverket), but also, for instance, the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management (SwAM) (Havs- och Vattenmyndigheten), the National Board of Housing, Building and Planning (Boverket), the Swedish Board of Agriculture (Jordbruksverket) and the Swedish Forest Agency (Skogsstyrelsen).
In 2010, the Swedish Parliament adopted a restructuring of Swedish environmental policy into a framework which today constitutes the foundation, and guides the development of, policies and regulations related to the environment. The new framework consists of three components. Firstly, an overarching generation goal indicates the types of changes that need to occur at every level in society within one generation to bring about a clean and healthy environment. To make this goal tangible, the Parliament also established environmental quality objectives (EQOs) (Miljökvalitetsmål) that describe the quality of the environment intended to be achieved by 2020. Finally, to facilitate progress towards fulfilling these objectives, a process was established by which the Swedish Government establishes milestone targets in areas of priority. Of particular relevance to GI, the Government’s specifications of the EQOs in 2012 included that the value of biodiversity and ecosystem services shall, where relevant and reasonable, be common knowledge and integrated into economic and political assessment and decision making throughout society by 2018.
In response to the Aichi targets under the CBD, the EU Biodiversity Strategy and the work to achieve the EQOs (those related to biodiversity), the Government proposed in 2013 to the Swedish Parliament an overall strategy for biodiversity and ecosystem services for the period up to 2020 (‘A Swedish strategy for biodiversity and ecosystem services’ (2013)). The strategy included a number of proposed legislative changes with relevance to GI and detailed the need for developing regional action plans for GI across the country.
1.1 Regional action plans for Green Infrastructure
On the basis of the 2013 strategy, the 21 County Administrative Boards in Sweden were commissioned to establish regional action plans for GI by 2017. The Swedish counties (län) have a high degree of autonomy in regional Swedish decision-making and are responsible for coordinating the development of their respective regions in relation to goals established at the national level.
The purpose of the GI action plans is primarily to: 1) provide frameworks for public land use planning; 2) provide the knowledge base (including maps of existing GI) for planning, management and the sustainable use of land, and 3) provide the foundation for planning and permitting processes.
The EPA has been commissioned by the Government to develop implementation guidelines to support the County Administrative Boards in developing the action plans and to, together with a number of Government agencies, coordinate the implementation of GI in Sweden.
The EPA’s assignment to coordinate the implementation of GI was extended and expanded in 2015 to include, for instance, developing guidance for the County Administrative Boards on how to give greater consideration to ecosystem services in land-use planning. The extended assignment stretches until October 2018.
Progress towards achieving the Swedish EQO’s is monitored and reported annually by the respective responsible agency, including an update on the state of the environment, individual measures that have been implemented and progress trends towards achieving the goals. The 2017 summary report launched in late March by the EPA states that progress with the regional action plans for GI is under way, but that there are significant differences in terms of progress between different counties.
1.2 Other policies and laws with GI relevance
- The Swedish Environmental Code (1999) (Miljöbalken): The Swedish Environmental Code constitutes the backbone of Swedish environmental law, bringing together the bulk of regulations with environmental relevance. Some regulations stipulated in the Environmental Code are of particular relevance to GI, such as those regarding protected areas, protection of “key biotopes”, the shoreland protection and management regulations, as well as related planning and permitting procedures.
- The Swedish Planning and Building Act (2010) (Plan- och bygglagen): The Act stipulates regulations regarding building and land-use planning in Sweden. The National Board of Housing, Building and Planning develops guidance for implementation of the Act, and is currently developing guidance on ecosystem services and GI in planning and building (during 2017-18).
- The Swedish EQOs framework is closely linked to GI – both implicitly in the generation goal itself and explicitly through specifications of individual objectives and milestone targets. For example, in 2014, the Government adopted a milestone target for protection of forests, wetlands, freshwater and marine areas specifying that ecologically representative and well-connected networks of spatial protection shall be established. Further, the EQO ‘A Good Built Environment’ is linked to the concept of ‘green structure’ (grönstruktur), a concept sometimes used interchangeably to GI in Sweden although primarily related to planning of recreational infrastructure.
Other EQOs have specifications that implicitly link to GI, such as ‘Thriving Wetlands’ and ‘A Magnificent Mountain Landscape’. Specific links between the EQOs and GI are elaborated further under Mainstreaming of GI, below.
- Different strategies, plans and campaigns developed by government agencies have close links to GI in that they cover spatial land use management and prioritization of conservation measures, for instance the ‘National strategy for protection of forests’; ‘A Swedish plan for protection of mires’; and the ‘Plan of measures for protected species’, all prepared by the EPA.
- The Swedish Government has commissioned the EPA to run a communications campaign about ecosystem services (between 2014 and Dec 2017). This work has so far included seminars, workshops and created an ‘ecosystem services network’ consisting of 50 private and public sector stakeholders.
- The Government has commissioned an investigation to review the existing regulation on ecological compensation with the aim to make its implementation more effective and consistent.
2. IMPLEMENTATION OF GI
Several projects related to GI have been initiated in Sweden, of varying size and at various geographic and governance levels. The following are some examples:
- The county (landskap) of Skåne in southern Sweden published in March 2012 a report on green structure in the county (‘Grönstruktur i Skåne - Strategier för en utvecklad grön struktur‘). The aim of the report was to show the opportunities for developing green structures in the county and to provide inspiration to local municipalities. It presents an overview of existing green and blue structures in the region, how and why these structures are important to the development of the region and proposes how municipalities can maintain existing structures and support the development of new ones.
- An assessment by the National Board of Housing, Building and Planning in 2012 showed that many municipalities in Sweden have plans and strategies for green structure at the urban level.
- The region of Stockholm has gradually introduced the concept of ecosystem services into planning at various levels, from being barely mentioned in the 2010 regional development plan for the Stockholm region to being a central part of the most recent plan to 2050, for instance related to green structure, blue structure and countryside. The region is also working with the MatrixGreen planning tool developed in collaboration between the Stockholm Resilience Centre and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) to, for instance, assess connectivity between various habitats and biotopes in the region.
- The city of Umeå in northern Sweden has developed a tool called the ‘Green Target’ that is used as a quality control in the planning process. The objective is to ensure that all citizens have access to facilities such as playgrounds, small groves, lawns etc. within 250m of their homes. In 2015, approximately 89% of citizens were living within 300m of green urban areas larger than 5,000 m2.
- The Augustenborg Botanical Roof Garden in Malmo is an example of urban green infrastructure. It is managed by the Scandinavian Green Roof Institute, which facilitates research and promotes green roofs and facades throughout Scandinavia. The suburb of Augustenborg has also developed an open storm water system containing green roofs, canals and dams.
- The ReBorN project – Restoration of Boreal Nordic Rivers – is a LIFE project enhancing previously modified water bodies in northern Sweden to improve the conservation status of habitats and species of Community interest, as defined in the Habitats Directive, and to achieve good environmental status of these bodies of water, in accordance with the Water Framework Directive. The project has a budget of just over €13 million and runs from 2016 to 2021.
3. MAINSTREAMING GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE
The EU Natura 2000 network is at the core of the EU's Green Infrastructure. By early 2016, 13.3% of the Swedish national territory was covered by Natura 2000 (EU average 18.1%), with Birds Directive SPAs covering 6.1% (EU average 12.3%) and Habitats Directive SCIs covering 13.2% (EU average 13.8%). There are altogether 4,082 Natura 2000 sites in Sweden (European Commission, 2017).
The EQO ‘A Varied Agricultural Landscape’ is linked to GI by aiming to, for instance, maintain the natural and cultural values of agricultural land. Concrete efforts by the Swedish Board of Agriculture include management, restoration and creation of biotopes in the landscape. In 2016, for example, the Board worked together with several other Government agencies on transition zones between forestry and agricultural land to support biodiversity, GI and ecosystem services.
The Swedish Board of Agriculture emphasises the value of connectivity between natural areas in the agricultural landscape and offers guidance to land owners on how to achieve a varied and connected landscape to support pollinators, birds and hunting and game management. A number of farms in Sweden are used as demonstration examples of agricultural systems benefitting biodiversity.
GI is a key concept in nine of the specifications of the EQO ‘Sustainable Forests’, most notably the aim that ‘the forest biodiversity is maintained in all biogeographical regions and species are able to spread across their natural habitats as part of a green infrastructure’. Another example is a specification stating that the ecosystem services of the forest are to be maintained.
The state-owned forestry company Sveaskog’s system of ‘eco parks’ (ekoparker) are important from a GI perspective in that the perspective is long term and they cover large, connected forested areas of particular ecological value. Sveaskog currently owns and manages 36 eco-parks in Sweden, ranging between 1,000 to 21,000 ha. The first park was established in 2003. In an eco-park, at least 50% of the productive forest must be used for conservation purposes, more specifically to protect and actively support the function of its natural values. Practical management measures include, for instance, reintroducing grazing cattle to old pastoral forests and cutting of coniferous forest to support deciduous forest growth. Management plans are designed in collaboration with relevant stakeholder across different sectors.
Other types of area designations and offsetting measures for protecting forest are relevant to GI. For instance, Swedish forest policy is often described as “freedom with responsibility”, based on the idea that forest owners and users are expected to invest more in their forest management (both in terms of conservation measures and measures to improve productivity) than what is stipulated in law. Forest land voluntarily set aside by forest owners for conservation purposes (“frivilliga avsättningar”) – without monetary compensation – is one of the conservation measures supported in Swedish forestry policy. These set-asides need to be at least 0.5 ha of continuous productive forest area containing high natural, cultural or recreational values.
Further, reflecting an increased interest for alternative management regimes (non-clear cutting methods) in recent years, the Swedish Forest Agency is developing new regulations and guidelines to reduce existing barriers to such methods.
The ongoing evaluation of the progress towards achieving the EQOs has established that the Sustainable Forests objective will not be achieved in time. The Government has provided additional resources for protection of forests in recent years, however, the resulting increase in area of the protected forest has not been as high as intended.
Finally, the EPA has co-financed EU LIFE projects to, for instance, restore valuable forest habitats.
The ecosystem service concept has been a focal point in recent years in the work relating to sustainable urban development in Sweden. The National Board of Housing, Building and Planning has developed a brochure together with the EPA about ecosystem services in the city. The two agencies have also run a seminar focusing on cross-sector collaboration regarding ecosystem services in the urban setting.
The work by the Swedish National Heritage Board is also relevant for GI in an urban context. The Board develops, for instance, guidance on management of trees in the urban environment.
Several government agencies and municipalities have in recent years begun to integrate the concept of ecosystem services into environmental impact assessments and land-use plans.
GI is implicitly linked to the EQO ‘Good-Quality Groundwater’, for example via the related work to increase and improve water protection areas across the country.
The EQO ‘Flourishing Lakes and Streams’ acknowledges, among other things, the importance of ecosystem services for achieving the objective and for protecting and restoring key habitats. Although various measures are being taken at different levels, the ongoing assessment of progress shows that this objective will not be met in time.
Marine and coastal policy
Part of the specification of the EQO ‘A Balanced Marine Environment, Flourishing Coastal Areas and Archipelagos’ is that marine and coastal ecosystem services are maintained. However, ecosystem services are not an explicit consideration in designation or design of marine protected areas in Sweden. Another specification of the EQO is that shallow coastal areas shall provide habitats and pathways for species as part of a green infrastructure.
SwAM is developing a framework for marine natural asset evaluation intended to provide a basis for, for example, GI (through the MOSAIC project)
In September 2016, the Swedish Transport Administration published a report on adaptation of transport infrastructure as a contribution to well-functioning green infrastructure. The report states, for instance, that the agency is working to complete plans and measures to adapt transport land-use to contribute to the achievement of the Swedish EQOs and well-functioning GI. The agency identifies and focuses on four key factors in relation to GI: safe passages for animals, noise, biodiverse infrastructure environments and invasive alien species.
New regulations regarding adapting transport infrastructure to the natural landscape are intended to apply to new projects and to ongoing project to the extent possible.
The Swedish Board of Agriculture has run a project in relation to the EQO ‘A Varied Agricultural Landscape’ in which they have developed a handbook and recommendations for how to benefit biodiversity around rural wind energy infrastructure. The publication discusses the concept “kreotop”, defined as a natural environment constructed based on a general model for how different ecological structures can benefit biodiversity.
Tourism and leisure; health; education, sport and culture
In 2012, the Swedish Parliament adopted ten objectives for policies related to outdoor leisure activities. One of these goals states that all Swedes should have the possibility to visit and enjoy nature. The 2015 evaluation of the progress towards achieving this goal showed that the number of municipalities that have adopted plans for green structure and nature has increased.
The Swedish authorities acknowledge that spending time in nature is good for public health. Another of the 2012 outdoors objectives is therefore to ensure that all Swedes have the ability to be physically active in the natural and cultural landscape.
4. FINANCING GREEN INFRASTRUCTURE
GI development and initiatives are funded via various streams in Sweden and have been allocated relatively large resources in recent years.
EU-level funding has been made available through a number of LIFE projects. In 2016, for instance, the EU granted a new LIFE project in Sweden of almost €5 million for restoration of valuable oak habitats.
In addition to EU funding, the Swedish Government provides state funding via the EPA, the County Administrative Boards and different foundations for management of national parks and other protected areas. In 2016 alone, approximately SEK 400 million (c. EUR 42 million) was granted, some 35% of which was allocated for nature maintenance and restoration, in particular of pastures and meadows. From a wider perspective, however, the funds available for GI-related measures are considerably larger, for instance when considering also CAP Rural Development funds allocated via the Swedish Board of Agriculture, the Swedish Forest Agency.
The current Swedish Government increased the funding available for protection of particularly valuable natural assets in 2016. It also acquired new areas to designate for protection as well as setting aside further resources for the management of existing sites. About SEK 18.5 million (c. EUR 2 million) has also been allocated in 2016 to the County Administrative Boards for the work to establish regional action plans for GI.
An interesting example of innovative GI funding was initiated by the City of Gothenburg in 2013. As the world’s first initiative of this kind at municipal level, Gothenburg issued green bonds ear-marked for investment in ‘green’ projects, including various GI-related projects.
A range of research projects exploring the potential of GI and effects of existing GI projects are receiving various types of funding. The Swedish Research Council Formas is providing SEK 3.1 million (c. EUR 320,000) to the research project ‘Green infrastructure environments for biodiversity and ecosystem services’ to be carried out by the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU).
5. CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR GI DEVELOPMENT
5.1 Best practice/points of excellence
Sweden has a range of policies and strategies in place to develop and improve GI across the country and across different sectors. There are also relatively high levels of funding and resources made available for this work.
Two specific examples can be highlighted as points of particular interest and best practice. The issuing of green bonds by the City of Gothenburg in 2013 is an interesting and innovative means to fund GI projects. The City received the UN Momentum for Change award in 2016 for initiating the programme.
Despite existing regulatory platforms and resources available, the Swedish work with developing GI is currently facing three key challenges:
a) Structural administrative barriers – although the individual counties have strong mandates and autonomy to initiate GI measures, biogeographical areas relevant for GI often expand across administrative borders, requiring collaboration between two or more counties.
b) Inter-county collaboration is often difficult and time and resource consuming. Due to the high level of regional autonomy of the counties, collaboration depends on regional initiatives and engagement and processes being in place to enable effective cooperation.
c) Knowledge gaps – despite high data availability there is a lack of overview and cohesion of the knowledge base. Further, the general lack of a common terminology around GI aggravates collaboration and further timely development of GI.
In addition to these over-arching challenges, protection of valuable forests is listed as a key challenge in the 2017 EQO progress update. For instance, despite systematic mapping of key forest biotopes and an increased number of new key biotopes identified, such sites continue to be logged at a relatively high rate and without signs of a decrease. The assessment only accounts for the key biotopes that are officially registered as such. The 2017 progress report recommends that larger areas of the most valuable forests need to be permanently protected to avoid further fragmentation of key habitats for many threatened species. The report also explicitly calls for further development of GI. The Swedish EPA and the Swedish Forest Agency have recently revised the national strategy for protection of forests to achieve a more cost-effective protection.
In 2014, in an attempt to encourage more rational agriculture, the conditions for being granted exemption from the general biotope protection provisions in the Swedish Environmental Code were relaxed. The new regulations emphasise that exemptions are only to be granted as long as the conservation objectives of the protected area are not jeopardized, however the EPA stresses that implementation needs to be closely monitored to avoid weakening of GI.
Similarly, according to the EPA, implementation of recent changes to the shoreland protection and management regulations need to be closely monitored and evaluated in order to avoid a weakening of GI. In 2014, the Swedish County Administrative Boards were granted the ability to revoke the regulations around small lakes and water bodies.
A 2016 assessment of the ongoing work of developing regional action plans for GI shows that GIS-related aspects of the work have been particularly time consuming. Another challenge identified relates to the division of responsibilities across different organizational and geographical levels, and the County Boards have consequently asked for additional guidance from the EPA. Finally, the County Administrative Boards highlight the need to develop and complement the first version of the action plans post-2018 to ensure that the work is long-term.
An increased allocation of state funds to achieve the environmental quality objective ‘A Rich Diversity of Plant and Animal Life’ has contributed to an intensification of efforts related to protected areas in Sweden. Targeted measures with particular relevance to GI, as previously mentioned, including rural development payments to agriculture, investments in designation of new sites and management and action plans for threatened species.
Another opportunity for the development of GI in Sweden comes from recent public investments in the communication of the value of ecosystem services, for example by the EPA. This may facilitate attention to ecosystem services in different decision making processes, thereby operationalising the concept across society. These efforts have also led to increased interaction between individual measures for ecosystem services, GI and climate adaptation, with potential synergetic effects.
Further, in a project run by the Swedish Government between 2015 and 2016 to develop ideas and policies to meet future challenges, policy recommendations for green competitiveness was one of the themes. A concrete recommendation resulting from the project and from this theme was to explore possibilities for simplifying the process and encouraging the Swedish pension funds to increase and renew their investments in, for instance, GI.
Finally, there is a large number of research projects currently ongoing in Sweden with relation to GI that are likely to contribute to the understanding and ultimately the development of GI. Researchers at Luleå University of Technology have, for example, emphasised the great potential to develop GI in Swedish cities, due to their relatively low population density.
The 2017 progress report of the EQOs by the Swedish EPA states that the ongoing work to establish regional action plans for GI is well placed to achieve better protection of biodiversity. It stresses, however, that the measures proposed in these action plans are of voluntary nature and that progress thereby is dependent on the commitment of relevant stakeholders.
The EPA has produced a publication of ‘arguments for more ecosystem services’ which includes examples of assessments carried out in Sweden and elsewhere on the values of ecosystem services. Some of the examples are of particular GI relevance. For instance, a Lund University Master’s thesis has run hydraulic modelling of the Augustenborg storm water system mentioned above, suggesting a 50% reduction in water inflow to the system following a 2007 downpour, compared to the old technology without green roofs.
In the 2016 assessment of the ongoing establishment of regional action plans for GI, the County Boards responsible for implementation report positive effects already accruing in the form of an increased understanding and commitment from the municipalities to questions regarding GI. The assessment also indicates that the ongoing development of the action plans has already created synergies and strengthened the cooperation among the relevant agencies and wider stakeholders.
6. KNOWLEDGE BASE
- Common messages about GI developed by the Swedish EPA, including illustrations to support implementation by regional and local agencies: GI messages
- SEK 27 million (c. EUR 2.8 million) has been awarded by the Swedish EPA to six ongoing national research projects related to GI: Research for GI
- Link to the work on "Mapping and Assessment of Ecosystems and their Services": MAES-related developments in Sweden
7. FURTHER RESOURCES AND PUBLICATIONS
“Valuation of cultural ecosystem services based on their contribution to people’s quality of life” http://www.naturvardsverket.se/Om-Naturvardsverket/Publikationer/ISBN/6700/978-91-620-6756-4/
“Implementation of the ecosystem service concept in municipal activities“ http://www.naturvardsverket.se/Om-Naturvardsverket/Publikationer/ISBN/6700/978-91-620-6755-7/
“National environmental monitoring and assessment of ecosystem services in mountains and forests“ http://www.naturvardsverket.se/Om-Naturvardsverket/Publikationer/ISBN/6700/978-91-620-6754-0/
“Valuation of ecosystem services in agriculture – for effective decision making“ http://www.naturvardsverket.se/Om-Naturvardsverket/Publikationer/ISBN/6700/978-91-620-6753-3/
“VALUES – valuation of aquatic habitats‘ ecosystem services“ http://www.naturvardsverket.se/Om-Naturvardsverket/Publikationer/ISBN/6700/978-91-620-6752-6/
8. LIST OF CONSULTED REFERENCES
‘Sweden’s Environmental Objectives – For More Effective Environmental Action’, Govt Bill 2009/10:155.
‘Preciseringar av miljökvalitetsmålen och etappmål i miljömålssystemet’, Regeringsbeslut M2012/1171/MA.
‘A Swedish strategy for biodiversity and ecosystem services’, Prop. 2013/14:141.
‘Regleringsbrev för budgetåret 2017 avseende Naturvårdsverket’; Regeringsbeslut M2016/02982/S(delvis), M2016/02923/S, M2016/02948/Mm m.fl.
‘Utredningen om en effektivare och mer konsekvent tillämpning av ekologisk kompensation’, M 2016:03.
Boverket (2012) ‘Grönstruktur I landets kommuner’, Report 2012:13.
EPA (2017) ‘Argument för mer ekosystemtjänster’, Report 6736.
EPA (2017) ‘Länens arbete med grön infrastruktur 2016’, NV-01521-15. http://www.naturvardsverket.se/upload/miljoarbete-i-samhallet/miljoarbete-i-sverige/gron-infrastruktur/pm-lanens-arbete-med-gron-infrastrukt.pdf
EPA (2017) Miljömålen Årlig uppföljning av Sveriges miljökvalitetsmål och etappmål 2017, Report 6749.
European Commission (2017). The EU Environmental Implementation Review Country Report – Sweden. http://ec.europa.eu/environment/eir/pdf/report_se_en.pdf
Nilsson, E., Arnesson, M. & Ericsson, A. (2011) ‘Vindkraft i slättlandskapet: så gynnar anläggning av naturmiljöer den biologiska mångfalden’. Jönköping: Jordbruksverket.
Shukri A. 2010. Hydraulic modelling of open stormwater system in Augustenborg. Master thesis, Lund University. Lund, Sweden.
Trafikverket (2016) ‘Anpassning av transportinfrastrukturen som ett bidrag till en fungerande grön infrastruktur. Planera, bygga och sköta’, Publikation 2016:133. https://trafikverket.ineko.se/Files/en-US/15251/Ineko.Product.RelatedFiles/2016_133_anpassning_av_transportinfrastrukturen_till_gron_infrastruktur2.pdf.
Jan Olov Westerberg; Regional Councilor, Western Europe, IUCN 2008 - 2017
 ‘Regleringsbrev för budgetåret 2017 avseende Naturvårdsverket’, Regeringsbeslut M2016/02982/S(delvis), M2016/02923/S, M2016/02948/Mm m.fl.
 Statens Offentliga Utredningar (SOU) (2014) ‘Med miljömålen i focus - hållbar användning av mark och vatten’.
 Nilsson, E., Arnesson, M. & Ericsson, A. (2011) ‘Vindkraft i slättlandskapet: så gynnar anläggning av naturmiljöer den biologiska mångfalden’. Jönköping: Jordbruksverket.
 Shukri A. (2010) Hydraulic modelling of open stormwater system in Augustenborg. Master thesis, Lund University. Lund, Sweden.