Results from three years of PRINCE

PRINCE (for Policy Relevant Indicators for National Consumption and Environment) was a research project tasked with exploring how to measure performance against Sweden’s Generational Goal – the overarching goal of Sweden’s national environmental policy.

The Generational Goal states that Sweden will:

. . . hand over to the next generation a society in which the major environmental problems have been solved, without increasing environmental and health problems outside Sweden’s borders

The Generational Goal represents an ambitious commitment to take responsibility for the Swedish economy’s extraterritorial impacts. However, it also presents a major challenge for progress monitoring, as the national statistical system includes no suitable indicators for directly comparing impacts inside and outside Sweden.

PRINCE delivered its results starting in Spring 2018. The project was mainly concerned with methodological innovations and research. In the process, it also delivered data for each indicator. These provide the most complete picture of Sweden’s global consumption footprint yet available.

Research under PRINCE

The PRINCE model

Most of the PRINCE indicator results are generated using a tailor-made model that tracks flows of commodities through the global economy, and estimates the environmental pressures resulting from consumption and production in 44 countries and 5 aggregate “rest of” world regions. The model then allocates those pressures to 60 “product groups” of goods and services consumed in Sweden and to different types of consumption: by the public sector, by private citizens, and in the form of capital investments. Read more about the PRINCE model.

Pressures linked to Swedish food and drink consumption

Given the known scale of environmental pressures associated with the food sector, an entire sub-project within PRINCE was dedicated to exploring the implications of agricultural production to meet Swedish demand. In particular, new indicators were developed for use of agrochemicals and for GHG emissions due to land use change (tropical deforestation), supplementing existing data on other GHG emissions linked to agriculture. Read more about the food and drink indicators, or watch Christel Cederberg present the PRINCE food and drink indicators (in Swedish).

Use and emissions of hazardous chemicals

Another PRINCE sub-project developed the first set of indicators that try to capture an overall picture of a national economy’s consumption-based hazardous chemical footprint, rather than focus on a single chemical or class of chemicals. This work also developed indicators for pesticides and for veterinary antimicrobial products. Read more about the chemicals indicators or watch a presentation by Linn Persson (in Swedish).

Greenhouse gases, air pollutants, and natural resources

One stream of PRINCE work concerned selecting, prioritizing and refining a range of environmental extensions already included in EXIOBASE. The challenge was to find those that revealed most about Sweden’s consumption footprint, and to choose one indicator when several followed similar patterns over time.

These extensions were then refined and run through the PRINCE hybrid model. As these indicators were already in both EXIOBASE and Swedish national environmental accounts, it was possible to generate time series of indicators up to 2014 (the most recent year covered by EXIOBASE3).

Read more about identification of hotspots of Sweden’s consumption footprint.
Read more about time-series results relating to the Generational Goal.

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. Read more about the PRINCE case studies.

Next steps

As the PRINCE results are the first indicators for Sweden produced using these methodologies, much work needs to be done to understand and interpret them, and to identify what they mean for policy. From 2017 there has been an ongoing dialogue between the PRINCE team, the EPA, SwAM and other state agencies with responsibility for Sweden’s environmental quality targets to review the PRINCE results and explore their policy implications and potential usefulness as part of Sweden’s national accounts.

Much of the work in PRINCE was experimental. This means that some of the new indicators, while promising, will require further research and refinement before they are mature enough to be included in national environmental accounting.

A set of academic papers relating to the PRINCE work have been submitted for a special issue of the peer-reviewed Journal of Cleaner Production. Several others are under review or already published.

PRINCE was funded by Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and the Swedish Agency for Marine and Water Management under a Swedish Environmental Protection Agency research grant (Environmental Research Appropriation 1:5).

For more information about PRINCE contact Viveka Palm.