Easy cycling is good, but not the whole story. Photo: Maqroll (CC: by-nc-sa)
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.
Read more » >>
The statistics guru Hans Rosling asks why we report our economy every three months, but emissions only once a year. Foto: Stefan Nilsson.
The global climate summit COP17 in Durban continues, and during these meetings there is certainly a lot of talking about numbers and statistics. How much carbon do we emit now? How many tons can we emit in the future?
Soon Sweden will publish its official national emission statistics for 2010. Unofficial data point towards increasing emissions. But the truth is we don’t really know until we get these statistics. And even when we get them, we won’t know where our emissions are heading this year.
This isn’t good, says the Swedish international health professor and statistician Hans Rosling, who has become famous as the man who turns dry statistics into a show. His presentations have rapidly become very popular for showing statistics “with the drama and urgency of a sportscaster”, as TED Talks puts it.
But there is something that makes mr Rosling see red. During the big annual climate forum Klimatforum last week, organised by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, he had an important question: How come both private companies and states make detailed economic reports every three months, but look at something as crucial for human survival as carbon dioxide emissions only once a year? Read more » >>
Since 1990 Sweden's emissions of greenhouse gases have declined with about 12,5 million tons, but then international air and boat traffic isn't counted, nor goods produced in other countries but consumed in Sweden. Photo: Ian Britton/Flickr.
One of 2011′s first discussions in the sustainability field is a bit technical, but nevertheless important: Should we let another country use the unused emission rights of Sweden?
When the Kyoto Protocol was set up to bring about global reductions of greenhouse gases, Sweden was allowed credits enough to increase our emissions with 4 percent until 2012 (compared to the 1990 emissions). But the national goals have been more ambitious, and now it seems that when the period is over in December 2012, we will have cut emissions with about 10 to 12 percent.
The emissions trading system within the European Union gives countries the rights to sell their unused emission credits to other countries who can’t reach their goals. But they can also be saved, or simply calcelled so that no one can use them. And now the question is: What will Sweden do with its excess credits – 70 million tons?
When our minister for finance, Anders Borg, lately said that it’s too early to decide, but added that the credits of course represent an important economic worth, it started a heated discussion. Will all the savings made by people who have cycled to work instead of going by car be in vain? asked the business magazine Veckans Affärer. Climate activists have started a petition to convince the government that the credits should be cancelled. And in radio debates some politicians argue that offering the credits to other European countries could convince them to support the idea that the EU should make 30 percent emission reductions by 2020 instead of 20 percent, while other politicians state that Sweden’s mission should be to reduce its national emissions as much as possible.
The discussion will probably go on for a while, but I think it’s interesting how it casts some light on the links between individual efforts to reduce emissions and what we promise to do as a nation. Because when we talk about international negotiations and treaties we seldom talk about the fact that in the end they decide about things we all do in our everyday life!
If you were asked to mention something that contributes to global warming, what would you say? Emissions from vehicles or maybe industries? Then you would give one of the answers that 71 percent of the Swedes who have been interviewed in a survey by the Swedish Environment Protection Agency have stated.
This survey shows that 96 percent of the Swedes see climate change as an important issue for society. As seen above many also are aware of some of the sources of greenhouse gas emissions. But the survey also indicates that rather few Swedes are aware of that even just the meat production of the world – according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization – is a bigger emitter than all transports put together. So: we better start looking at what we are eating.
To get a better picture of your emissions, try a new calculator developed by the Swedish Environmental Research Institute (available in English).
The farmers’ local market – not to be advised? Photo: Jonas O Carlsson.
Earlier I have written in the Sustainability blog about how the Swedish National Food Administration has put together guidelines on how to eat food which is both good for health and for the environment (read about it here and here)
Some of the recommendations are to eat less meat and to buy locally produced food when possible, since transportation causes large emissions of carbon dioxide.
These guidelines were sent to the European Commission earlier this summer to be approved, but now the commission has come up with objections.
– If a piece of advice is given by a government authority that encourages people to buy products from their own country, that is in most cases against the principles of the single market, said Michael Mann, who is the commission’s spokesperson for agriculture and rural development in one of the Swedish TV news shows.
Complicated to be environmentally friendly
According to a new survey made by the Swedish Consumer Agency, 80 percent of the Swedes find it difficult to act in an environmentally friendly way. About half of the persons in the survey said that there are too many options and choices to be made, which makes it almost impossible to stay sufficiently informed about the environmental impact of different products.
Now the EU commission and the Swedish National Food Administration are having a dialogue about the possibilities to change the wordings in this document, but I think the question about how environmental issues are supposed to be weighed when they collide with the principle of free movement of goods within the EU will rise again.