More Research Needed To Reach Green Goals

December 22, 1998

Grants for environmental research in Sweden need to be increased by SEK 110 million if environmental policy objectives are to be met, according to a report from the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency to the government. Important areas requiring further research include the link between airborne emissions and health, biological diversity and health hazards in built-up areas.

"We need SEK50m to cover those areas of research which have lost funding, for example due to our research grants being cut. A further SEK 60m are needed in order to meet the environmental objectives," says Rolf Annerberg, head of the Swedish EPA.

In October, the Swedish government commissioned the Environmental Protection Agency to look into environmental research, together with the Council for Co-ordination and Planning of Research. The basis of the investigation was to strengthen environmental research as a whole. The government also wanted to establish, among other things, the consequences of the Swedish EPA losing their research grants in 1998.

According to the assessment made by Swedish EPA, the total investment in environmental research has not changed significantly; it is still around SEK 500m-600m. But the distribution has changed, and more changes are expected. The new system for funding has led to a restructuring of environmental research. Even if the research foundation MISTRA now finances a considerable part of the research previously funded by Swedish EPA, there is some research that does not fall within MISTRA's remit.

Environmental research
More grants are needed for research into establishing the limits for ecological sustainability. Among other things, the extent and effects of various environmental problems have to be assessed. The report contains a detailed list of research needed into all of the 15 environmental objectives set out by the government in the latest Environment Bill. Some examples are:

Environmental objective 1- Clean air: Research is required into health effects, atmospheric pollution, transport systems, control instruments and life style, with regard to, for example, the relation between various toxic pollutants, how they spread and the risk for cancer and other respiratory illnesses. This also includes the combined effects of emissions that affect the climate and the ozone layer.

Environmental objective 3 - Sustainable lakes and watercourses:Some basic knowledge of biological diversity in lakes and watercourses is missing. This includes, for example, threatened species, the effects of disturbances and what constitutes the natural state of a lake. These issues are highlighted in a forthcoming EU Directive on water. Sweden has many lakes, and more environmental data is needed.

Environmental objective 11- A good urban environment: More information about the accumulation of hazardous metals and chemicals in our society is needed. Which chemicals should be allowed? How can we steer human behaviour and lifestyles in a more environmentally friendly direction?

New ways
The Swedish EPA survey of research requirements shows that SEK3m - 15 m are needed for each objective. The variation depends on research needs and the availability of alternative funding. The report suggests that SEK 110 million per year, in the form of a grant to the Swedish EPA, is distributed by a new decision-making authority, which should also include the National Chemicals Inspectorate and the Council for Co-ordination and Planning of Research.

The areas of science, technology, medicine, humanities and social sciences should work together in environmental research. Temporary institutes could be set up for separate research projects.

"These institutes should provide transient centres mustering of strength around certain problems, with a time limit of 5-10 year. They should be headed by active researchers with representatives from affected areas, and could be jointly financed by several players, according to Erik Fellenius, research director at Swedish EPA.

New solution for EU research
One problem that remains, is the issue of supplementary funding for those receiving grants through the EU research programme. A condition for these grants is that Sweden contributes the same amount as the EU. The total sum has increased, since Swedish researchers have been very successful in winning EU-projects.

"We suggest that Universities and Colleges of Higher Education take on the main responsibility for their researchers, even when they are funded by EU grants. Swedish EPA and other authorities should be able to provide the supplementary funding for each respective area", Erik Fellenius says.
The whole report is available (in Swedish) on

Erik Fellenius, 46-8-698-13-08.,
Tor-Björn Larsson, 46-8-698-14-47,

Press Service:
Suzanne Kolare, 46-8-698 16 97, 0708-26-16-97,
Anna Bonta-Anger, 46-8-698-10-84,

Swedish Environmental Protection Agency

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