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|Sweden has called on the European Union
to take the lead in fighting climate change despite facing the worst
economic downturn since the 1930s.
Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said the EU should reach a common
position ahead of a major international climate conference in
Copenhagen in December.
Climate change is "coming quicker and earlier than we thought" and
our way of living is "not sustainable", he said.
Sweden has taken over the revolving presidency of the EU.
Mr Reinfeldt, during the presidency, will also try to make headway
on financial regulation, the fate of the stalled Lisbon treaty and
admitting new members.
No easy task
The slogan of the Swedish presidency is "taking on the challenge"
and Mr Reinfeldt sees a lot of challenges over the next six months.
His priority is to persuade all 27 EU countries to speak with one
voice on climate change, in order to get the US and other major
polluters such as China to sign up to substantial cuts in greenhouse
gas emissions in December.
But with unemployment and public debt rising fast across Europe, it
will not be an easy task.
Mr Reinfeldt said: "We need to see a lot of leadership, a lot of
nations moving on this issue.
"The climate change is happening, it's coming quicker and earlier
than we thought and our way of living is just not sustainable.
"We need to alter the direction, we need to take down our dependency
on fossil fuel and we need an answer this autumn."
Mr Reinfeldt said Sweden could be a model.
Its economy has grown by 50% in the last two decades, while the
country imposed the world's highest carbon tax on fossil fuels for
industry, households and transport.
But raising taxes is hardly popular in times of crisis, and neither
is Sweden's insistence that others, like France, should start
reducing the huge deficits they have run up as a result of the
Keeping the EU's door open to new members is also getting harder.
All three candidates are blocked by their EU neighbours over
bilateral disputes - Turkey by Cyprus, Croatia by Slovenia and
Macedonia by Greece.
"I'll try to keep our commitments," Mr Reinfeldt told the BBC, "but
I'm not saying that it's possible to deliver that much."