Sara Ivarsson fought Big Oil — and was awarded 2 500 USD by the We Don’t Have Time Foundation

Sara Ivarsson was a driving force in the protests against the expansion of Scandinavia's largest oil refinery.
Now she’s been awarded “Best Climate Warning” for her successful climate review in the We don't Have Time app.

Sara Ivarsson could not stand by and watch as the refinery was given the go-ahead for a big expansion. Photo: Lo Ivarsson

Late autumn 2018. Sweden had just suffered the hottest summer ever recorded, and a young girl named Greta Thunberg had started a lonesome climate strike outside the Swedish parliament.

Sara Ivarsson, a PhD Candidate at Gothenburg University, watched the news one night when she learned that Preemraff Lysekil, Scandinavias biggest oil refinery, was about to get the go-ahead for a large expansion.

The new complex, called ROCC (residue oil conversion complex), would increase carbon emissions in Sweden by one million tons annually, making Preemraff Lysekil the largest single carbon emitter in the country.

How is this possible? Sara thought. How did this decision manage to make its way through the system without anyone interfering or protesting?

”It felt awful”, she says. ”Our politicians had signed the Paris agreement, and now they were allowing a project that would make it impossible for Sweden to reach its climate goals. This could not be allowed to happen.”

She started collecting names to oppose the decision, and eventually got 25 000 persons to sign the list. Half a year later she created a climate warning on the We Don't Have Time app, titled ”Stop the expansion of Preem refinery in Sweden”.

She didn’t target Preem, but the Swedish Land and Environment Court of Appeal, and demanded it ”to be brave, to have the guts to choose to interpret the climate law as binding and therefore rule against the expansion of the Preem refinery in Lysekil.”

Sara Ivarsson says: ”There had recently been cases in other countries, where climate and environmental laws were being used to oppose large scale pollutant projects like this one. I figured it might be worth a shot.”

The climate warning helped spread information about the Preemraff issue globally. It also led to the creation of the Swedish ”Stop Preem” campaign, which grew big and led to a dialogue with Preem.

”The company cares about its brand, and because of that, they chose to listen to us and respond to our criticism. Then Greenpeace joined in and created a huge campaign against the expansion. That felt really good.”

Thanks to the massive opinion created by Sara Ivarsson, Greenpeace, the Swedish Green Party and many others, the Court of appeal decided to try the case.

To the disappointment of many, the court finally approved the project, which in turn sent the final decision back to the government.

But thanks to her struggle, Sara Ivarsson was awarded “best climate warning”, during the Exponential Climate Action Summit on September 24, and received a grant of 2 500 US Dollars by the We Don’t Have Time Foundation, the main owner of We Don’t Have Time.

Sara Ivarsson was awarded “Best Climate Warning” at the Exponential Climate Action Summit, which was broadcast live on September 24. Watch the announcement of the awards:

But the university’s mail server had broken down, so Sara was unaware of the award until September 28, when Ingmar Rentzhog, the founder of We Don't Have Time, finally managed to get in touch with her.

By then, everything had changed for the better.

Preem had suddenly decided to withdraw its application for ROCC, making it unnecessary for the government to make the decision.

More on the topic: Preem scraps plans for expansion of oil refinery

“The closure of ROCC is a necessary commercial decision based on an assessment of profitability and technical feasibility. It is crucial for Preem to allocate resources to those projects that will accelerate our renewable production fastest and most cost-effectively”, said Magnus Heimburg, newly appointed CEO of Preem in a statement on the company’s web site.

Preemraff Lysekil, Scandinavia´s biggest oil refinery.

It was a moment of joy for Sara Ivarsson and her closest allies.

”We were drinking champagne to celebrate this, when I got the call from We Don’t Have Time about the awards. It was a wonderful night.”

Sara Ivarsson has been engaged in the climate movement for years, and has decided to use the prize money for that cause. At the moment she would like to draw everyone’s attention to biofuels.

”Biofuel has a nice positive ring to it, like natural gas. But what is it, really? Where does it come from? Is it sustainable? We need to make sure we’re not replacing one bad fuel with another bad fuel”, she says.


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We Don’t Have Time is a social network for climate action. Together we are the solution to the climate crisis.

We Don't Have Time

We Don’t Have Time is a social network for everyone who wants to be a part of the solution to the climate crisis. The power of many enables us to influence businesses, politicians and world leaders. But We Don’t Have Time to wait.