Approximately 230,000 people in Sweden have used the climate calculator since its launch in 2017. “We are thrilled with the result. Clearly this tells us that people have the need to understand the impact their actions and behaviours have on the climate,” says Katarina Axelsson, Research Fellow at SEI. “People have the desire to contribute and want to know how they can make a difference.”

Launched in March 2017, SEI’s climate calculator is a tool that allows individuals to estimate their carbon footprint and hence their impact on the climate. Developed together with WWF, the aim of the tool is to increase people’s understanding about their climate impact and inspire people to make lifestyle changes.

A recent article (in Swedish) by Svenska Dagbladet, one of Sweden’s major newspapers, featured the climate calculator as a specific challenge and inspiration towards more sustainable lifestyles. According to SvD, ‘being climate smart does not mean having a boring life. Doing something good for the climate does not necessarily mean you have to give up on quality of life’.

After answering questions about travel, eating habits, housing and purchases made, users of the calculator receive a rough estimate of greenhouse gas emissions and the number of planet equivalents that were required if everyone made the same lifestyle choices. The calculator is social, allowing people to invite friends and set up groups to compare climate profiles. It is designed to be efficient and simple: it only takes about ten minutes to answer the questions, and anyone can do it on their mobile phones while on the go.

Reporting individual emissions as part of a national strategy?

A recent SEI report (in Swedish) commissioned by WWF shows that existing instruments and measures are not sufficient to achieve Sweden’s climate targets and the Paris agreement’s ambitions. Food consumption and air travel have been identified as critical areas that need transformation if Sweden wants to achieve its climate goals.

Emissions from air travel are increasing according to the report. Potential measures to reduce these emissions could be to form alliances with other countries and work for a global tax on fossil fuels for air traffic, introduce quotas for biofuels and a VAT for international flights, reduce air traffic in the public administration, and invest in high-speed trains within the EU. But even if Sweden introduces these and other measures it would still not be enough to achieve the reductions in emissions required to reach the climate targets set in the Paris Agreement. The report also looked at Swedish eating habits and highlights that meat consumption is still very high. Proposals to shift to a more vegetarian diet include a climate tax on meat and subsidised prices for vegetable and fruits.

“We need a far-reaching transformation by changing individuals’ behaviours. This can only be done if we manage to understand the needs of people and why they behave the way they do. If Sweden is to have a more realistic output of all emissions, consumption-based emissions should be reported and included to complement Sweden’s national emissions,” concludes Katarina Axelsson.