Sweden has set itself the ambitious goal of handing over to the next generation “a society in which the major environmental problems in Sweden have been solved”. Significantly, this is to be achieved “without increasing environmental and health problems outside Sweden’s borders”. This so-called Generational Goal constitutes the overarching goal of current Swedish environmental policy.
Yet measuring the diverse environmental impacts of a country’s consumption, particularly beyond its borders, is extremely challenging. These impacts may be spread along a myriad of long, complex and very fluid global supply chains.
PRINCE was set up in response to a call from the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency (Naturvårdsverket) and the Swedish Agency for Water and Marine Management (Havs och vatten myndigheten) for a new monitoring framework, based on the latest modelling and statistical techniques, to facilitate follow-up of the Generational Goal. The framework was to cover a uniquely broad range of environmental pressures, including:
- Emissions of greenhouse gases and traditional air pollutants from fossil fuel burning, manufacturing processes, livestock production and land-use change
- Impacts of the consumption of natural resources such as water, land and wild fish
- Exploratory indicators for use or emission of hazardous chemical substances.
The overall aim was to find ways to generate sets of indicators that provide a comprehensive snapshot of the combined environmental pressures linked to Swedish consumption – something never before available at the scale of a national economy.
The framework developed by PRINCE was unveiled in 2018. It uses a hybrid model linking environmentally extended multi-regional input-output (MRIO) data with Swedish national accounts, in order to estimate environmental pressures in all the countries along the multi-stage global supply chains feeding Swedish consumption, in such a way that they can be compared with Swedish environmental accounts. As well as allocating pressures to 44 countries and 5 “rest of” regions, the model also shows which “product groups” and which components of final demand (household spending, government spending, investments etc. – excluding exports) are responsible for what share of these pressures.
In addition to the central model, the PRINCE team carried out a number of studies exploring the potential for new indicators for environmental pressures never yet measured at a macro scale, or ways to refine existing indicators in order to improve their accuracy and policy relevance. These are written up in case studies.
The PRINCE consortium
Led by Statistics Sweden (SCB; the Swedish national statistical bureau), the consortium implementing PRINCE included statisticians, economists, engineers, physicists, biologists, mathematicians, social scientists and communication experts, who all currently work in applied environmental research in leading European institutes: SEI, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Chalmers University of Technology, Leiden University Institute of Environmental Sciences (CML), and Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research (TNO).
PRINCE was funded by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, under an EPA research grant (environmental research appropriation 1:5).