Stockholm and other Swedish cities are often being pointed out as green and low emission. According to official figures, the average person in Stockholm emits only 3,75 tons of carbon dioxide per person and year, which is quite a lot less than the average Swede at 5,6 tons.
But earlier this year a joint report from Stockholm Environment Institute and a green think tank called Cogito pointed out a problem with these figures. As so often with statistics, they only describe one part of reality.
These statistics do measure the emissions from all activities taking place within the area of Stockholm. But they don’t count the CO2 emissions that are made to manufacture and transport all the things that the Stockholmers’ total consumption is made up of.
What the report has done is to calculate the total emissions of four Swedish cities: Stockholm, Gothenburg, Malmö and Linköping.
Their conclusion is that the average Stockholmer is responsible for 15,7 tons of CO2 emissions annually. That is 10 percent more than the average Swede’s, at 14,2 tons. And a far scream from the global average of 4 tons.
Apart from shaking the Swedish green self-image up a bit, this report can also be seen as a part of the discussion about what’s greenest, living in the city or in the countryside.
Many times it is stated that an urban lifestyle is more environmentally friendly, since living in rural areas often means having a car and living in a house that is bigger than the urban average.
According to this report, Stockholm’s emissions are below the national average when it comes to transports and accomodation. This can be explained by Stockholm’s well-developed public transport, and lower heating costs. But in all the other sectors, like food, clothes and furniture, Stockholm rises above the national average – when it comes to food the difference is as much as 30 percent higher.
“Not counting the emissions from our consumption gives a misleading image of the environmental effects that our lifestyle has”, wrote some of the persons behind the report when it was presented (article in Swedish, can be auto translated here).
If there’s a real will to be sustainable, we might have to do our homework once again, adding up all the numbers this time…