Michael Wood speaks to an audience of Swedish and American businesspeople.

The United States is just waking up to the reality of climate change, which could mean big business for Swedish firms offering innovative environmental technologies and products, said Michael Wood, former U.S. ambassador to Sweden.

“This awakening in the United States to the problem of climate change creates a huge buyer for solutions,” Mr. Wood said in an April 21 speech at the opening of the Swedish-American Entrepreneurial Days conference in Savannah.

Many companies offering environmental products took part in the Edays conference, a business event that focused on the theme of “accessing capital for sustainable development.”

Sweden has an edge in that sector as well as in alternative fuels, energy efficient devices and other environmental areas, as the country’s national and local governments offer a variety of incentives for companies to develop and employ “green” technologies.

Mr. Wood was appointed as U.S. ambassador by his personal friend, President George W. Bush, who Mr. Wood says gets an unjustifiably bad rap for his efforts to fight climate change.

Under Mr. Bush, the U.S. was the top producer of ethanol, ahead of even Brazil.  And the state of Texas, where Mr. Bush served as governor in the latter half of the 1990s, produces twice as much electricity by wind power as Denmark, which is widely known for its emphasis on wind energy.

But while Mr. Bush put the U.S. on the “ramp” leading to the climate change expressway, “I think it’s safe to say that President Obama has now moved us into the passing lane,” Mr. Wood said.

He noted that the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act signed in February by Mr. Obama to kick-start the economy allocated $60 billion out of the total $789 billion to clean energy projects.

The U.S. has now moved from stage one of the climate change debate – questions as to whether it is real – to stage two: questions about how to fight it responsibly, Mr. Wood said.

Some Swedish firms at the Edays conference in Savannah were hoping to cash in on this newfound posture of environmental openness in the U.S.

BSR Svenska AB, a Swedish car-tuning company, was marketing systems that reprogram a gas-powered car engine’s software, enabling it to run on regular gasoline, an 85 percent ethanol blend, or any combination of the two.

BSR was part of a delegation from Vaxjo, Sweden, which is billed as the “greenest city in Europe” for its efforts to reduce carbon emissions.  The city signed partnership with the City of Savannah to cooperate on green initiatives. [Read more about the partnership here.]

About 90 percent of Vaxjo’s home heating energy is produced by renewable sources.  The city and its university are leaders in environmental research and have invited Savannah officials to travel there for a conference on energy-efficient buildings made almost completely out of renewable timber.

Swedish Ambassador to the U.S. Jonas Hafstrom spoke preceding Mr. Wood.  He said that climate change and environmental issues would be at the forefront of Sweden’s European Union presidency, which begins July 1. [Article on Mr. Hafstrom here.]

For full coverage, visit our special Edays Web site

As managing editor of Global Atlanta, Trevor has spent 15+ years reporting on Atlanta’s ties with the world. An avid traveler, he has undertaken trips to 30+ countries to uncover stories on the perils...