The reviews give praise to both countries although, as with all OECD reports, neither country gets off without recommendations as to how their policies could be improved.

Sweden makes good use of economic incentives to protect the environment, including good environmental taxes and is on track to meet its Kyoto Protocol commitment to limit greenhouse gas emissions, the report notes. However, the OECD recommends Sweden could better manage its environment by:

  • strengthening the inspection, compliance and enforcement of environmental regulations at regional and local levels;
  • improving water management to reduce nitrates and pesticides, and comply with the EU water framework directive;
  • better protecting nature and biodiversity, including through increasing the number and quality of protected areas for marine, forest and wetland areas;
  • reviewing trade controls on the export of ozone depleting substances and the illegal trade in endangered species;
  • providing more economic information on the environment, such as environmental expenditures and energy prices, and economic analyses of climate change policies.

However, it acknowledges that Sweden gives high priority to sustainable development, and the report praises its achievements over the past decade such as adopting 15 ambitious, long term environmental quality objectives; decoupling environmental pressures from economic growth and having the lowest level of CO2 emissions per unit of GDP among all OECD countries.

In addition, its implementation of the polluter pays principle and green tax reform, development of a national sustainable development strategy and integration of health and environment policies, all gained praise from the OECD.

Spain’s achievements were praised in areas such as the strengthening of institutional and legislative environmental frameworks at national and regional levels, based on EU directives, as well as improved municipal water infrastructure and recent revision of water management policies, in line with the EU water framework directive.

However, it insists that Spain steps up the efficiency of its environmental policies, and the integration of environmental concerns in sectors such as tourism, construction, transport, energy and agriculture.

It also recommends environmental management improvements such as:

  • further controlling air emissions of SOx, NOx, VOCs, NH3, and improving air quality by reducing ground level ozone and particulates;
  • shifting to water demand management and efficient water pricing;
  • phasing out environmental subsidies and making better use of economic instruments to encourage the efficient management of resources and reduce pollutants;
  • more tightly enforcing pollution and land use regulations, such as coastal zone protection, at national and regional levels.

Both Spain and Sweden’s reviews were measured in the context of the OECD Environmental Strategy for the First Decade of the 21st Century, and in relation to their own policy objectives as stated in domestic or international agreements.

By David Hopkins

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