Sweden needs to take responsibility for all of its emissions.
Sweden has lowered its territorial emissions of greenhouse gases during the last decades, but at the same time emissions that occur in other countries as a result of Swedish consumption have increased, these emissions are now larger than the emissions released in Sweden. Despite this there are no official targets aimed to reduce emissions from consumption. This needs to change. Therefore 21 Swedish organizations have signed a joint statement:
"We want Sweden to take the country’s whole impact on the climate into account and add a new milestone target on reducing the Swedish consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions. The new milestone target should be phrased in a way so that all people in the world has the right to the same amount of emissions and that the two-degree target can be reached. We also ask for sufficient resources to be added so that the consumption-based emissions can be measured and followed up in a meaningful way."
The organisations behind the statement:
Oxfam in Sweden
Friends of the Earth Sweden
The federation of Swedish farmers LRF
Swedish Field Biologists' Association
The Latin America groups of Sweden,
The Africa groups of Sweden
Swedish society for nature conservation
The Swedish Consumers' Association
The Church of Sweden´s international work
The green think tank Cogito
Artister för miljön
The Natural Step
About measuring emissions
Today what is primarily reported and measured is the territorial emissions that is released within a country’s borders. This is called the production perspective because it primarily measures emissions from what is produced within a country and not what is consumed. To only measure emissions from a production perspective is inadequate since it doesn't show all the emissions a country and its inhabitants generates. Counterproductive incitements can also be created. For example it can seem more advantageous to shut down production facilities within the country and import the same goods instead, even if this leads to higher global emissions.
To measure emissions from a consumption-based perspective means that all emissions that private and public consumption generates is included, even if these emissions takes place outside the country’s borders. Emissions from export is not included. Swedes emissions from a consumption perspective are around 11 ton CO2 equivalents per person and year. From a production perspective the number is 6 ton per person and year (numbers from 2012).
The Swedish city of Gothenburg has already implemented a climate target on consumption. “By 2035 the consumption-based GHG emissions from the inhabitants of Gothenburg should be maximum 3,5 ton carbon dioxide equivalents per person” This is in addition to lowering the emissions within the cities geographical area.
Implementing a target on reducing the consumption-based emissions does not mean that the target to reduce the production based emissions should be replaced. Sweden needs to take responsibility for all the emissions we can affect. The ones that takes place in Sweden, the ones our consumption causes globally and the ones we have influence over as owners. Since no global agreement on reducing emissions yet exist countries that want to assume responsibility for their effect on the climate needs to look at, and reduce their emissions from several perspectives. This does not mean that different ways of measuring emissions should be added to each other, causing duplication. Different ways of measuring have different purposes. The overarching goal is however always the same, to reduce global emissions.
If Sweden adds a new official target on reducing the consumption-based emissions it would most likely get international attention and might inspire other high income countries to do the same. If many countries work to reduce their emissions from consumption it could be an added incitement for countries with relatively high emissions from their production to change their production system to becoming more environmental friendly.
A counterargument that has been heard is that it is too complicated to measure emissions from a consumption perspective. But the Swedish environmental protection agency has published such numbers for several years now and new research programs like PRINCE is ongoing and will probably improve the way these emissions can be measured. The consumption-based emissions cannot be measured with the same precision as the production based emissions but it is possible to follow trends which should be most important.
For more information contact Robert Hoglund, coordinator for the initiative.
+46 (0)73 727 1660