The Swedish footprint: A multi-model comparison

Dawkins, Elena, Moran, Daniel, Palm, Viveka, Wood, Richard and Björk, Ida. Journal of Cleaner Production, vol. 209. pp. 1578–92. DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2018.11.023

This article compares carbon footprint results for Swedish consumption from a range of models, and offers insights and recommendations for developing a system of policy-relevant indicators of the environmental pressures linked to consumption, both inside and beyond a country’s borders.

Swedish consumers have a disproportionately large per capita carbon footprint, particularly compared to the levels recommended for maintaining a stable climate. Most of that footprint falls outside Sweden’s territory – due to the processes involved in producing and transporting products consumed in Sweden – and are thus “embodied” in those products.

This article presents a study carried out as part of the PRINCE project on developing policy-relevant indicators of the environmental impacts of Swedish consumption. The study compared the results on Sweden’s carbon footprint generated by several available models: the EXIOBASE, GTAP, OECD, Eora, and WIOD multiregional input-output (MRIO) models, along with the single-region model currently used by the national statistical office, Statistics Sweden. The results looked at not only the size and development of the carbon footprint over time, but also the geographic “hotspots” of consumption impacts identified by the different MRIOs – not only carbon emissions but also total greenhouse gas emissions and  materials and water use footprints.

Comparison of Sweden’s carbon footprint using different multiregional input-output models and the Statistics Sweden single-region model. Graphic created using Flourish.

As well as presenting the footprint results, the article discusses why the results may differ between models (with their particular assumptions and calculation methods) and between types of environmental pressure.

The aim of the study was to better understand the state of knowledge of Sweden’s consumption footprint, and to gain insights that could inform the development of a new model for the PRINCE project. The models all provide different but similar results, and each has its own strengths and weaknesses.

The authors conclude that given the complexity of creating an entirely new MRIO model, the character of Sweden’s economy and the high-quality environmental-economic data Sweden holds about domestic activities, linking the national data with an existing MRIO would be a promising approach to explore for PRINCE, and potentially for other countries. Based on the analysis, they offer recommendations to guide future research and policy-making.


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