Investigating the Environmental Footprint of Swedish Household Consumption

University essay from KTH/Hållbar utveckling, miljövetenskap och teknik

Abstract: Production-based indicators show that Sweden has lower emissions per capita than other high-income countries. Nevertheless, scientific evidence points to a significant overshoot of some of the planetary boundaries, especially regarding climate change, if Swedish consumption-related emissions abroad are considered. Households are one of the key drivers behind the increasing environmental deconstruction. Studies estimate that household consumption, directly and indirectly, contributes to 51-81% of these environmental footprints. Better consumption-based indicators are therefore required to directpolicy interventions if Sweden wants to achieve its Generational Goal. The Generational Goalstates that the major environmental problems in Sweden should be solved, without increasing environmental and health problems outside Sweden’s borders. This project aimed to estimate the consumption-based environmental impacts of Sweden with the most recent available data. Furthermore, it gave valuable insights into the consumption-behaviour of Swedish households. The consumption-based calculations, based on EXIOBASE 3, estimated a carbon footprint of 94 Mt CO2-eq. for Sweden in 2011, whereas the production-based GHG-emissions were 30% lower than the actual emissions caused by Swedish consumption. The Land footprint was estimated at 333 000 km2. The material footprint showed that Sweden imported twice as much material as it exported to other countries, which led to a consumption-based material footprint of 279 000 kt. The total of 2 000 Mm3 of blue water was to 94% embodied in imported products. The results proved the importance of looking at the consumption-based environmental footprints to gain an accurate picture of the national environmental impact. Data on the Swedish household expenditure were combined with environmentally extended multiregional input-output tables to estimate the environmental footprint of Swedish households — the study identified food, housing and transportation as the expenditure categories with the highest environmental impact. According to the results, the total carbon footprint for one Swedish household in 2011 was 14 t CO2-eq., the land use amounted to 32 200 m2, the extracted materials to 431 m2, and the blue water consumption to 431 m3. The combination of household expenditures and environmentally extended input-output tables create a comprehensive picture of the consumption-based emissions and give a detailed insight into the consumption behaviour of Swedish households. These insights can further be used to design more accurate policies promoting a zero-carbon society within Sweden.

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