The Voices at the Stockholm+50 conference

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Published on 26/07/2022

Voices of Nuclear, official stakeholder of the Stockholm+50 conference

At the beginning of June, the Voices of Nuclear went to Stockholm to participate in the international conference “Stockholm+50: a healthy planet for the prosperity of all – our responsibility, our opportunity” organized by the United Nations (UN). 

We have already participated in the COP26 climate summit organized by the UN in Glasgow at the end of 2021. We also plan on going to COP27 in Egypt in November 2022. The Stockholm conference is somewhat outside the “cycle of climate summits”. It was organized to commemorate the conference that took place 50 years ago, in 1972, following which the UNEP agency (the United Nations Environment Programme) was established, hence the name – Stockholm+50. 

Arrival at the conference 

The conference was held in the suburbs of Stockholm in the large conference hall Stockholmsmässan. It consisted of a large room where the main plenary sessions took place, four rooms which hosted the side events (thematic conferences), an “Action Hub” also hosting secondary sessions, many meeting rooms, and large common areas for informal exchanges. 

The aisles of the Stockholm+50 conference

The opening of the conference was very formal. The inaugural speech was given by King Charles XVI Gustav of Sweden. In his speech the king referred to his own memories: in 1972, then crown prince, he had the opportunity to participate in the first conference in Stockholm. Afterwards, António Guterres, Secretary General of the United Nations, proceeded with the election of the chairs of the conference – Magdalena Andersson, the Prime Minister of Sweden, and Uhuru Kenyatta, the President of Kenya.

the King of Sweden Charles XVI Gustav
the Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson 

Unfortunately, the speeches of the speakers did not go beyond the general and agreed findings. It was also surprising to note that Prime Minister Andersson did not mention nuclear power in her speech, even though it was thanks to nuclear energy (representing 33.4% of the country’s primary energy supply in 2016) that Sweden’s electricity mix is largely decarbonized.

Sweden’s primary energy supply mix in 2016 (source : IEA

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres delivered a speech reuniting many global declarations of intent. Guterres alerted the public: “We consume every year as if we lived on 1.7 times the Earth!”. The solution according to him: “We must accelerate the development of renewable energies by tripling investments in the sector to reach 4 trillion dollars per year”. No word on nuclear power.

He also called on the countries to rethink our conception of wealth. “We must place a real value on the environment and go beyond gross domestic product as a measure of human progress and well-being”. Does this argument also apply to the logic of nuclear opponents who claim that nuclear is too expensive to be a good climate solution despite its excellent performance in fighting climate change? This question remains unanswered as it stands.

the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres 

The plenary which took place during the two days of the conference was reserved for speakers pre-selected for speaking engagements. It was not open to free questions and interventions, which is why our activity focused on Side Events, thematic mini-conferences organized on the sidelines of the plenary and led by panels of specialists.

Side Events

During the two days of the conference no less than 50 meetings in the form of mini-conferences were organized. They followed a format of a panel discussion, preceded by a speech by a senior UN official. We would have liked these debates to be more open and offer more scope for discussion, unfortunately most of the time the panelists only made statements prepared in advance. Some moderators allowed time at the end of the session for the audience to ask questions. We took advantage of each of these moments. 

We came to Stockholm for two main reasons: to represent citizens who are truly committed to climate, aware and proud of the contribution of nuclear energy to the fight against global warming, and to ensure that nuclear energy is part of the debate.

The Voices delegation supported by our Swedish ecomodernist friends – Jessica and Take

We had a few reasons for satisfaction. During the plenary conference, the speakers tended to speak more of “clean” than “green” energy, which may imply that an effective energy transition cannot be based solely on intermittent renewable energies (it may seem little, but here we measure the progress made). Furthermore, even people with anti-nuclear beliefs admitted that access to abundant clean energy is necessary to combat climate injustice, including the thousands of premature deaths in developing countries where many people have access only to highly polluting domestic energies to prepare their meals. 

You can find the comments of the panel speakers and some of our interventions on our Twitter account. 

What are lessons learned for Sharm el-Sheikh?

The conclusion of the Stockholm+50 conference is that the energy transition must be inclusive. Global warming does not distinguish between men and women, different skin colors, sexual orientations, etc. But it’s up to us to make sure everyone is on board. Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson recalled the words of Olaf Palme, former Swedish Prime Minister, who said at the first conference: “In the field of the human environment, there is no individual future, nor for human beings or for nations. Our future is common. We have to share it together. We have to shape it together”. 

We are more than ever convinced that access to clean energy is a universal right of every human being. And nuclear energy can guarantee access for all to clean and abundant electricity. It is with this conviction that we are going to Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt in November for COP27. 

Nuclear for climate!