PRINCE case studies

Several case studies were carried out as part of the PRINCE project. Some looked at ways to improve or enrich existing indicators, while others looked at potential new indicators.

These case studies looked at

Two methods for measuring transport emissions

Emissions from sea, land and air transport make a large but often poorly accounted share of the GHG and air pollutant footprints of consumption. PRINCE case studies explored two very different approaches to building consumption-based macroindicators for transport emissions along a country’s international supply chains.

Using MRIO to estimate GHG emissions from transport

The first approach used MRIO modelling, similar to other PRINCE indicators. Based on EXIOBASE data, it estimated transport costs (by subtracting reported export value from reported import values), and translated these values into carbon emissions, based on assumptions about the emissions intensity of different transport modes. It covered land, air and shipping emissions.

This approach indicated that 14% (12 Mt CO2) of Sweden’s total CO2 footprint  came from transport activities in 2011, and most of these emissions – 7.8 Mt – were linked to transport activities embodied in goods consumed in Sweden, rather than the direct consumption of transport services in Sweden (4.2 Mt).

A Big Data approach to estimate GHG emissions from maritime shipping

The second approach – which covers maritime shipping emissions – links regular automatic signals indicating the location, speed and other operational data for each vessel, with characteristics of each ship, and details of their cargo content. This allows very accurate carbon emissions assessments per vessel and commodity transported for each country of origin and destination.

This bottom-up approach found that in 2016, vessels departing or landing in Sweden emitted 2.66 Mt CO2, in 21 098 journeys. The main routes, in descending order of associated shipping emissions, were to and from Germany, the UK, Russia, domestic, Netherlands and the USA.  As well as producing aggregated emissions per country or type of vessel, the approach can also allocate emissions to individual commodities, companies (exporters and importers) and ports. Watch a presentation of the new method by Javier Godar. Read the paper A spatially explicit data-driven approach to calculating commodity-specific shipping emissions per vessel.

Deforestation and land-use change

Farming and forestry are major drivers of tropical deforestation – and associated carbon emissions and biodiversity loss ­­– due to the expansion of cropland, pasture and forest plantations. However, these impacts are not captured well by the PRINCE land use indicator, because it is not sensitive to land-use change: it does not differentiate between, for example, production that takes place on established agricultural land (or plantation forest) and production taking place on newly cleared forest.

This case study used a land-balance model and data from a variety of sources to estimate the quantity of deforestation and peatland drainage, and the associated influence on carbon emissions, for land-based production in Sweden’s supply chains. It then allocated these emissions to different consumed product groups found in EXIOBASE.

According to this method, in the period 2010–2014 Swedish consumption was associated with the loss of around 7300 hectares of tropical forest every year (averaged). Nearly half of this deforestation occurred in Latin America, the remainder in Asia and Africa. The resulting carbon emissions amounted to 3.9 MtCO2/yr, a substantial contribution to the overall carbon footprint of Swedish food consumption. Watch Martin Persson present these findings (Swedish).

Finer-grained footprinting to account for subnational variations

The PRINCE indicators, like most footprint indicators, only allocate environmental pressures to producer countries at the national scale. However, to understand what impacts pressures like resource extraction, land-use and different types of pollution might lead to, it helps to know more about the local conditions at a subnational scale – especially in large countries with highly varied ecological zones.

This case study examined subnational sourcing, and deforestation risk, of soy production in Brazil for animal feed associated with different components of Swedish consumption. To do this, subnational production, trade and land-use data from the Trase initiative, were experimentally linked with SEI’s IOTA MRIO model. A similar method could potentially be used for other land-based commodities and environmental pressures, which would provide more impact-sensitive consumption-based macroindicators. Read more about the case study or read the new open-access peer-reviewed paper “Capturing the heterogeneity of sub-national production in global trade flows“.

Weighting water use indicators with water scarcity factors

The main PRINCE water use indicator estimates the total volume of blue water use (in Mm3) embedded in goods and services consumed in Sweden. However, extraction of water can have very different impacts on ecosystem services depending on the context – in particular the level of water scarcity – in regions of production.
One case study weighted the PRINCE blue water use statistics for a range of agricultural crops, using indices of water scarcity. This substantially changed the rankings of blue water footprints for various combinations of crop type and producer country. Wheat from the Rest of Asia and Pacific region was associated with the largest water footprint. The water use weighting highlighted the potential water scarcity impact of fruit imports to Sweden from the Middle East. Read more.

Indicators for environmental impacts of capture fisheries

While terrestrial production systems are relatively well represented in consumption-based environmental accounts, wild fisheries are much less so. This case study developed new environmental extensions for MRIO modeling that nuance available wild fish production data by factoring in important variables such as life history characteristics of the species caught, species vulnerability, the region in which they are caught, and method of catch. The resulting indicators capture not just direct consumption of fish products, but also embedded pressures – for example, discarded bycatch and fish-based feed fed to animals. Watch a presentation of the results by Chris West.

Socio-economic benefits from Swedish consumption

This case study attempted to balance the focus on environmental pressures with an exploration of the socio-economic benefits that consumption of imported goods by wealthier countries can have in lower-income producer countries. Its findings highlight the positive impact of consumption in Sweden on employment in China. The study values the socio-economic benefits for China of producing goods and services for Swedish consumption at 1499 million euro, resulting in around 500 000 jobs. The benefits are mainly felt by middle- and low-income people in China, and by the manufacturing, mining, leasing and hospitality sectors.


For more information on these case studies contact Viveka Palm or refer to the forthcoming academic papers.