‘Pakistan can learn a lot from smart Swedish solutions’

April 06, 2019

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INGRID Johansson, Ambassador of Sweden in Pakistan, participates in a panel discussion organised at the NED University of Engineering and Technology on Friday.—Tahir Jamal / White Star
INGRID Johansson, Ambassador of Sweden in Pakistan, participates in a panel discussion organised at the NED University of Engineering and Technology on Friday.—Tahir Jamal / White Star

KARACHI: Pakistan, particularly the city of Karachi, facing numerous challenges today, can learn a lot from Sweden — a country setting an example in the world that there is no contradiction between reducing greenhouse gas emissions and achieving a growing economy. This happened through innovation, entrepreneurship, civic engagement and political commitment.

This was the gist of the discussion held at the National Incubation Centre, NED University of Engineering and Technology, on Friday as part of a programme titled ‘Smart Cities & Digital Transformation’.

“There is no magic stick. But, there is a magic recipe [to the prosperity Sweden achieved]. We started from a very bad point in 1950s. Toxins seemed everywhere. Sweden was the first country to set up an environmental protection agency in the world and come up with an environmental protection law in 1967,” said Magnus Andersson of the Business Sweden Bangalore, an organisation supporting Swedish companies in India. Sharing how Sweden successfully combined low-carbon emissions with growing economy and became one of world’s top 10 competitive economies, he said in his presentation that the government enforced environmental laws, held companies responsible for their emissions, introduced eco-friendly legislation and systems and offered significant support to encourage use of green technologies.

Sweden is the first country to have set up an environmental protection agency in the world

“The country decentralised administrative powers and introduced a strong local framework while adopting an integrated and holistic approach towards civic and environmental challenges,” he said.

Information shared during the programme showed that Sweden with 50 leading incubation centres today has the highest percentage of renewable energy use in the European Union and a system in which 99 per cent of household waste is recycled or converted into energy.

Half of the houses in Sweden have heat pumps, which can reduce energy use for heating by up to 50pc.

Also, investment in hybrid engines and alternative fuels has provided Sweden with the largest biofuel-powered bus fleet in the world. From 1990 to 2013, the country cut its greenhouse emissions by 22pc while increasing its GDP by 50pc.

“We overcame many challenges. Now, we aim to achieve carbon neutrality,” Mr Andersson said, adding that system-based solutions were important for sustainable development.

During the panel discussion, representatives of Swedish companies and business entrepreneurs offered solution to areas, such as water and waste management, clean air and energy efficiency, net connectivity and internet of things (the extension of internet connectivity into physical devices and everyday objects). They also explored how Pakistan and Sweden could collaborate.

‘Swedish solutions to Pakistan’s urban challenges’

“Today’s event presents smart Swedish solutions to Pakistan’s urban challenges, and displays how Sweden’s industry, academia and government collaborate in clusters that produce start-ups and innovations for sustainable growth. I look forward to increased trade and knowledge-sharing between Sweden and Pakistan,” said Ambassador of Sweden to Pakistan Ingrid Johansson.

To a question, she said she felt that innovative technologies existed in Pakistan (which seemed restricted to educational and research institutions) and the problem was more related to lack of a policy, regulation, incentivising and creating a demand for innovative technologies.

Panellists were of the view that cities around the world were rapidly growing and linking competitiveness with sustainability was the need of the hour.

“Pakistan needs to become an IT producer and not just its consumer. It’s important because only then you can produce content and contribute [to global economy],” said Stefan Lindgren, one of the panellists.

Earlier, Swedish illusionist Charlie Caper opened the event with a futuristic show on robotic technology, setting the tone for the discussion on innovation for a sustainable future.

The event was co-organised by the Embassy of Sweden, the Swedish Institute, the Swedish Business Council in Pakistan and the Swedish firms including ABB, AICT, Atlas Copco, Ericsson, SKF, Tetra Pak, TalkPool and Tundra Fonder.

Published in Dawn, April 6th, 2019