Climate adaptation in Sweden: Organisation and experiences


  • Malin Mobjörk
  • Bengt Johansson

Publish date: 2009-03-17

Report number: FOI-R--2725--SE

Pages: 35

Written in: English


  • climate change
  • adaptation
  • adaptation capacity
  • policy-making


During recent years, adaptation to climate change has become a more explicit part of climate policy both internationally and in Sweden. This report gives an overview of adaptation activities in Sweden and describes the organisational framework that underpins such adaptation work. The report is based on published documents and a limited nunber of personal contacts. In Sweden, the average temperature is expected to increase by 3-5 C by 2080 compared with the mean level recorded during the period 1961-1990. Changes in precipitation patterns and higher sea levels are also expected. Climate change will thus lead to new vulnerabilities in infrastructure and negative health effects will appear as a result of longer periods with high temperature and an increased risk of spread of infection. The generally policy in Sweden for dealing with risks, vulnerabilities and crises is to allocate the various responsibilities to the same actors during crises as under normal conditions. Therefore much of the responibility and tools for dealing with climate adaptation lie at the local level. Local authorities in Sweden are responsible for physical planning and most local infrastructure, i.e. areas that are important for guarding against negative impacts of climate change. Another area of responsibility for local authorities is measures to reduce vulnerability to extraordinary events. Central government and state agencies have few operational roles with regard to climate adaptation but act rather as asource of information and funding, and as providers of the regulatory framework. Networks between different levels of government and between government and private actors are expected to play an important role in deaaling with climate adaptation. The work on climate adaptation is still in its infancy in Sweden. Some efforts have been made at national level to change regulations so that climate change can more easily be included in normal planning activities.The risks of climate change have been mapped on different levels of society and materials necessary for proactive decision-making, such as more detailed knowledge about land elevation, water flows and ground conditions, has been compiled. Regulations have been changed regarding physical planning and new buildings must be located on land suitable for that purpose with regard to accidents, floodings and erosion. The National Board of Housing, Building and Planning has been specifically tasked with developing methods and planning instruments for this. State agencies with special responsibilities have started investigating the expected vulnerability due to climate change in their respective areas. This is particularly evident for the Swedish Road Administration and the Swedish Rail Administration. The Swedish Board of Agriculture has also initiated a project aimed at providing knowledge of how future climate change will affect technical systems in agriculture, such a pipe drainage, embankments and irrigation installations. The comprehensive plans that form the basis for physical planning in Sweden are the most important documents for climate adaptation work to date. The plans are revised on an area-specific basis by local authorities in Sweden and several local authorities have changed the recommendations to suit their planning activities, the most common measure being changes to the prescribed minimum levels for foundation-laying. Another area of adaptation work concerns protection from rising sea levels or flooding through investments in dykes and pumping systems. Adaptation work is more frequent in local authorities that have been affected by erosion and flooding and those with a tradition of active planning. The nature of adaptation work thus far is mainly reactive, driven by extreme weather events, but changing regulations and responsibilities concerning proactive work are expected in a forthcoming government bill.