Roles and responsibilities in Sweden

The roles and responsibilities of climate change adaptation in Sweden are divided across different levels – from local and regional to national. The collaboration between the different sectorial responsibilities is essential to achieve the adaptation targets.

Local level

At the local level the role of the municipalities includes several important activities in which adaptation can and should be integrated. The municipalities are responsible, for example, for functioning water and sewerage systems, energy and waste facilities, hospitals and health care facilities, schools and welfare. According to several legislations, they are also authority practitioners in charge of supervision, control and permission granting. They handle environmental protection and nature conservation as well as the examination and surveillance of the Environmental Code.

The municipal emergency management and civil protection are important features for the development of risk and vulnerability analyses of adaptation strategies. The responsibility includes both sectored operational planning and physical planning.

Regional level

The county administrative boards have a broad responsibility when it comes to climate adaptation. In addition to the regional responsibility, they have an important role in providing support to municipalities for their environmental efforts. Inter-municipal aspects will also be controlled, such as floods, because climate issues are often transboundary.

Since 2009 the county administrative boards are responsible for climate change adaptation at a regional level. A number of areas are relevant to consider based on the need for climate change adaptation. They are:
• Regional development
• Sustainable community planning and housing
• Nature conservation and environmental protection
• Crisis management in peacetime and emergency services
• Social care
• Communications
• Food inspection
• Farming
• Cultural environment
• Gender equality
• Civil defence
• Animal protection and veterinary questions
• Reindeer management (in the provinces of Norrbotten, Västerbotten and Jämtland)
• Fishing

National level

The Swedish Government adopted in March 2018 the country’s first National Adaptation Strategy. The strategy outlines mechanisms for coordination, monitoring, evaluation and review of adaptation to climate change.

As the work on adaptation cuts across many different disciplines, it is to a large extent guided by existing legislation, frameworks and targets, both national and international. Examples include the work on Agenda 2030 and the Swedish Environmental Quality Objectives.

The Ministry of the Environment and Energy has the overall responsibility for coordinating the Governments policy work on climate change including follow up on adaptation.

As a result of the National Adaptation Strategy the Government gave in June 2018 the National Board on Planning, Building and Housing a coordinating role in relation to adaptation within physical planning.

In 2012, SMHI was tasked to form the National Knowledge Centre for Adaptation, to assist municipalities, regions, authorities and other stakeholders in their adaptation efforts.

Many Swedish authorities play an important role in adaptation work through their respective sectoral responsibilities and are working on preventive measures, building knowledge and improving resilience. To underpin the National Adaptation Strategy with specific actions the Government decided in June 2018 on an ordinance which mandates 32 national authorities and the 21 County Administrative Boards to initiate, support and follow up on adaptation within their area of responsibility, including to develop action plans. Several national authorities had already developed action plans for the sectors that fall under their responsibility.

The regional government offices (County Administrative Boards, or CABs) are responsible for coordinating the regional adaptation work and supporting local actors in their adaptation work. The CABs adopted in 2014 regional action plans on which they report annually to the Government about the actions taken to adapt to climate change. These plans cover the entire country of Sweden with nearly 800 proposed actions. The main actions proposed in the plans concern flood protection, protection of drinking water, shoreline protection, infrastructure (roads, railways), adaptation of agriculture and forestry, resilience for heatwaves and health care.

There is a National network for adaptation, promoting both vertical and horizontal cooperation, including the 21 counties, and 19 Government agencies. The secretariat for the network is provided by SMHI. There are also national networks for thematic cooperation.

Some local authorities have also developed adaptation action plans for their municipality. Significant progress and increased awareness of the importance of adaptation have been achieved in the last few years, at all levels of society. To spur the process further the Government has issued amendments to the Planning and Building Act proposed in the National Adaptation Strategy and approved by the Riksdag in June 2018. The changes in legislation require the municipalities to give their views in the master plan on the risk of damage to the built environment that may followed by climate-related races, slides, erosion and floods. The municipalities will also give their views on how such risks can diminish or cease. The law changes also give municipalities the put demands on land permeability in the detailed planning rules.

Knowledge transfer and risk assessments

The Rossby centre of the SMH collects climate data and has developed climate scenarios up until the year 2100. A database of natural disasters is kept by the Civil Contingencies Agency, and the Swedish Geotechnical Institute has developed maps and support tools for climate risks. The Swedish portal for climate change adaptation provides information on possible climate impacts.

Many of the sectoral and regional adaptation plans include risks and vulnerability assessments.


The Government finances measures to improve knowledge about the impacts of climate change and to address these impacts, for example by implementing prevention measures against landslides and flooding. 

The Government also distributes assignments related to various measures to sector agencies. Most adaptation issues are, however, multidisciplinary, meaning that work on climate adaptation is largely performed in collaboration between different actors and sectors at the national, regional and local levels.

Sweden has a well-established and functioning framework for disaster risk reduction (DRR), including work in forums for crisis preparedness. The work is coordinated by the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB).

Cooperation is promoted on all levels and between sectors and actors working with land use planning, risk management, natural disasters and climate adaptation, in order to reduce risks and enhance preparedness.

Several coordination forums currently exist in Sweden where sector agencies and other stakeholders can share experiences and plan key actions. These stakeholders include Network for shore erosion, Committee on dimensioned flows in hydroelectric dams in a changing climate, Delegation for landslides and a National network for drinking water.

Sweden’s municipalities are obliged to carry out risk and vulnerability assessments as a basis for coping with extraordinary events and crises. Such analyses also cover events that will be affected by climate change.

In built-up areas where the risk of natural disasters is particularly high, municipalities can apply for state funding for preventive actions.

Evaluation and revision

There is a five-year evaluation-cycle for the National Adaptation Strategy. The first step will be a vulnerability analysis, monitoring and evaluation of the implementation of the strategy, and proposals for revisions of the strategy, followed by an updated strategy in 2023. The Government has established an Expert Council on Adaptation at the SMHI as proposed in the Strategy. The Council is tasked with evaluating adaptation progress for this revision.