Climate Action

Magnus Billing on how to meet UN SDGs and encourage a just transition to net zero

Magnus Billing, CEO, Alecta spoke at the recent Climate Action Sustainable Investment Forum Europe about how to meet UN SDGs and encourage a just transition to net zero.

  • 16 May 2022
  • Rachel Cooper

Magnus Billing, CEO, Alecta spoke at the recent Climate Action Sustainable Investment Forum Europe about how to meet UN SDGs and encourage a just transition to net zero.

Are you on track at Alecta to achieve the SDG goals and the net zero objective?

The answer is yes and no. If you look at some of the goals there has been good progress in some areas, notably in the levels of extreme poverty. In 1990, we had a share of 35% level of extreme poverty and just before the pandemic it was down to 10%, this is clearly progress. We need to reenergise and take a new stab at this in order to keep the momentum going. I also see some progress when it comes to goal number two, zero hunger. We had a decrease from 13% to 9% in the last 15-16 years not much but we are going in the right direction. A topic which is talked about a lot today is the climate action goal number 13. During the past 10 years, we have emitted the highest levels in history and this is not a good starting point. However, if you look at the positive side, I think the growth rate at least is starting to decrease. Although 2021 was a pickup following the 2020 pandemic year the current geopolitical situation could potentially go in two directions, either positive or negative towards the SDG goals. Regarding the climate action goal I would like to stay a little optimistic, there are good examples of actions and initiatives that are taking us in the right direction though these need to be accelerated at great speed if we are to reach net zero. It is important to encourage a positive narrative in the context of just transition. We see societies being polarised today and this could be detrimental in achieving the goals, societies in which not everyone sees the benefits for themselves or their family or the overall social good. We need to transition and transform towards an equitable and just world to achieve the goals.

What are the positive measures and initiatives happening right now which need to be encouraged if there is to be a just and equitable transition?

Coming out of COP26 we just need to pause and assess what has been achieved to date. More than 60 countries representing around 90% of the Co2 emissions have pledged to achieve net zero. I think that's very important and a sign of strength and support. If you look at the energy mix and the projections for that, given the enormous decrease in costs for solar and wind, I think the initial projection was that we were going to have around 80% of our energy mix from renewables by 2050. That's an enormous step, though again, we need to accelerate, and we need to do more but this is a great starting point and projections will lead us in the right direction. I'm also very optimistic when considering the transport sector. In the last five years or so we've seen an annual increase in sales of electric vehicles by 60 to 65% which is enormous progress in itself. This has in turn driven electrification and battery construction which is happening across Europe and in Sweden.

We invest in real estate and I think the investment environment in the real estate segment has completely changed during the past 5-10 years in a positive sense, in that you are leaving value on the table if you're not constructing sustainable buildings today. There is a strong incentive for us to move forward in this direction and to accelerate it. Clearly, there are challenges as well, we need steel and concrete to build and such components are not currently net zero. Though there is a lot of innovation in technology when it comes to carbon capture and we are moving closer to see viable business models for corporate carbon capture infrastructures which is very positive. We see in Sweden and elsewhere, initiatives for producing green steel at a scalable level, so the technology is moving forward. We are now entering into a scale up phase and there are many good signs and   momentum is picking up.

You can watch the Sustainable Investment Forum on demand by clicking here.