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Sweden: First to Target Emissions from Imports

It’s all well and good to propose net zero targets for a nation’s economy, but if they don’t account for the emissions associated with imported goods, those emissions calculations will be skewed.

Dozens of colourful containers stacked on a dock

In other words, if you only consider emissions associated with production within a country’s borders, it’s impossible to get a true picture of the total emissions created by all the products consumed within that country.

Making an accurate calculation of all emissions is a very difficult task as different countries measure emissions in different ways. Not all companies report their total emissions accurately and not all actors in the supply chain can be relied on to report their emissions honestly. Then there is the problem of calculating the emissions created when products are shipped by rail, air, truck, or sea. What about last mile emissions that result when cargo is delivered from local warehouses to retailers?

Climate Change News reports that Sweden’s political parties have agreed to include consumption-based emissions — pollution generated overseas to make products that are imported into Sweden — within its climate targets, making it the first country in the world to make the leap into the complex realm of overseas emissions reporting.

“The inclusion of consumption emissions in Sweden’s emission targets is historical and something that many organisations have worked towards for a long time,” said Karin Lexén, secretary general at the Swedish Society for Nature Conservation.

The European Geosciences Union estimates that about 22 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions are derived from goods that are produced in one country and consumed in another. The Global Carbon Project calculates that about 60 percent of Sweden’s total emissions originate abroad and are embedded in imports. For a country making huge strides in clean energy at home, it is a notable weak point in its carbon reduction policies.

Hopefully, by Sweden adopting this new standard on how to address consumption emissions, other countries around the world will follow suit.


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