Indicators for national consumption-based accounting of chemicals

Persson, L., Arvidsson, R., Berglund, M., Cederberg, C., Finnveden, G., Palm, V., Sörme, L., Schmidt, S. and Wood, R. (2019) Journal of Cleaner Production. DOI:10.1016/j.jclepro.2018.12.294

This paper presents a new set of national consumption-based indicators for the global use, emissions and impacts of hazardous substances, one of the key outputs from the PRINCE project.

There has been a relentless increase in the quantities and types of chemicals used in producing consumer goods and services around the world. This has caused widespread concern and has been linked to a growing number of environmental problems.

Several countries’ national environmental targets, as well as the global chemical-related goals in the 2030 Agenda, call for the monitoring of chemical use and emissions. However, this monitoring is made very complicated by the great variety of production processes and chemicals regulation regimes found in countries along today’s global supply chains.

The Subproject 4 team presents a new set of indicators that connect the use and emissions of hazardous substances to a country’s total consumption, using the case of Sweden.

The new indicators make use of the hybrid model developed in PRINCE, combining the multiregional input-output analysis database EXIOBASE with data from the Swedish System of Economic and Environmental Accounts, together with a novel set of environmental extensions. The five indicators are: use of hazardous chemical products, use of pesticides, use of antimicrobial veterinary medicines, emissions of hazardous substances, and the potential toxicity of these emissions. The indicators further allocate these different pressures to 60 product groups consumed in Sweden, and to the countries and world regions where they occur.

The results suggest that, overall, only 10–24% of the chemicals-related pressures from Swedish consumption occur within Sweden’s borders, depending on the indicator. The use of hazardous chemical products and veterinary medicines related to Swedish consumption primarily takes place in other EU countries, whereas the use of pesticides as well as reported emissions of hazardous substances occur mainly outside the EU.

Also presented is a review of chemicals-related databases, discussed in relation to the driver-pressure-state-impact-response (DPSIR) framework for indicators.

The paper highlights the need for improved international accounting of chemical flows, as well as for strengthened policy frameworks to address cross-border impacts of consumption of hazardous chemical products.

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