Climate change adaptation in Sweden – an overview

Climate change adaptation is carried out by the various administrative levels of government as well as by businesses, academia and the civil society. This is an overview of these roles and responsibilities in Sweden.

Climate change adaptation is regulated in various laws and provisions for the public sector. However, a great deal of work is also carried out within industry and within research and education.

The national level

At the national administrative level , it is primarily the Government, the Parliament and a large number of government agencies that are responsible for climate change adaptation work in various ways. 

The Swedish government presented an updated version of the national strategy for climate adaptation on March 20, 2024. The previous strategy was presented in 2018. A major amendment compared to the previous version is the inclusion of an action plan for climate adaptation formulating what the government intends to do within the next five years. The strategy is currently available in Swedish only.

Climate change adaptation strategy (Available in Swedish only)

The Government’s Ordinance on Agencies’ Climate Change Adaptation regulates the work of 32 agencies and all county administrative boards in connection with climate change adaptation. Within their own areas of responsibility and within the framework of their assignments, the agencies shall initiate, support and evaluate the work involved in climate change adaptation. For instance, they shall draw up action plans for their climate change adaptation work. Each year, the agencies shall also report on their work to the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI), which according to the ordinance shall analyse these reports, submit a summary analysis to the Government and support the agencies in their work with the ordinance.
Ordinance on climate adaptation work on the part of government agencies (Swedish National Knowledge Centre for Climate Change Adaptation)

The Government has also specifically tasked the National Board of Housing, Building and Planning with coordinating the national climate change adaptation work for the built environment.

A large number of laws govern climate change adaptation work in Sweden, both directly and indirectly. The main – and most direct – law is the Swedish Planning and Building Act. One key law with indirect control in this area is the Swedish Environmental Code.

Legislation and regulations

In order to support the national work, several knowledge-boosting bodies have been established. The Swedish National Expert Council for Climate Adaptation was appointed by the Government, and has been tasked with evaluating climate change adaptation work in Sweden and submitting proposals for ongoing work. The Expert Council provides data for the national climate change adaptation strategy every five years.

The Swedish National Knowledge Centre for Climate Change Adaptation is also run on behalf of the government at SMHI. The role of the centre is to act as a hub for knowledge about climate change and to be a meeting place for actors involved in climate change adaptation. The centre operates the online portal and arranges different types of training opportunities.  Other important tasks include providing expert support to the Ministry of the Environment and participating in development internationally.

Within the National Network for Adaptation, a number of agencies work together with the aim of strengthening society’s ability to deal with the positive and negative effects of climate change. The network cooperates through and issues a newsletter.

The regional level

At the regional administrative level in Sweden, it is mainly the county administrative boards but also the regions who work with climate change adaptation. The county administrative boards have been tasked with coordinating climate change adaptation work regionally and ensuring that the national targets decided on by the Government are achieved. The county administrative boards are subject to the Ordinance on Agencies’ Climate Change Adaptation, which includes a requirement to draw up action plans.

The regions are responsible for sectors  such as health and medical care, public transport and regional development, but they do not have any specific assignments linked to climate change adaptation. However, the regions’ assignments within regional growth work and Swedish emergency preparedness can be understood to include also responsibility for climate change adaptation.

Local level

At the local level, the municipalities have a very important role to play in climate change adaptation work. Many municipal operations are affected when the climate changes, such as physical planning and infrastructure for water, the emergency services, health and social care, schools and childcare.
The Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (SKR) monitors and supports the municipalities’ climate change adaptation work, for example by producing information materials and arranging conferences and seminars. SKR also manages an online network for dialogue and sharing experiences in connection with climate change adaptation issues.

Networks, industry and education

There are a number of networks in Sweden that work with various issues involving climate change adaptation. Drinking water, dam safety, landslides and coastal erosion are just a few examples of areas in which agencies cooperate.

There are also a number of initiatives within industry. Industry organisations such as the Swedish Property Federation, Swedish Water and Insurance Sweden work actively with climate change adaptation. The issue is also becoming increasingly important within the finance sector, particularly due to the physical risks resulting from a warmer climate.

Research and education within climate change adaptation takes place at most large Swedish universities, and at institutions such as the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) and the Swedish Environmental Research Institute (IVL).