Published every two years, the WWF Living Planet Report documents the state of the Earth, including its biodiversity, ecosystems, the demand on natural resources and what that means for humans and wildlife.
And the 2016 edition shows that Swedes are currently living lifestyles that would require the equivalent of four Earths to sustain – 4.2 to be precise.
Sweden ranks alongside the likes of the USA, UAE and Canada as one of the worst countries in the report when it comes to its consumption footprint, which the WWF defines as the area used to support a defined population’s consumption.
The footprint, measured in global hectares, includes the area needed to produce the materials a country consumes, and the area needed to absorb its carbon dioxide emissions.
According to the study, Sweden consumes the equivalent of 7.3 global hectares per capita. For perspective, nearby Germany consumes 5.3, Tanzania consumes 1.3, and the USA consumes 8.2.
The WWF highlighted Sweden as being a big importer of consumer goods produced by fossil fuels, particularly from China. The Nordic nation has high indirect carbon dioxide emissions as a result.
“Sweden and Swedes are very good at many things and we have come far in our conversion of energy production even if there is still a lot left to do. We have advanced technology, knowledge and understanding of sustainability issues, but we don’t speak a lot about the impact of consumption of items which are produced in an unsustainable way,” Swedish WWF CEO Håkan Wirtén told news agency TT.
In order to improve its sustainability, the WWF recommended that the Swedish government should bring in a target to reduce consumption-based emissions, work out a strategy to halve Sweden’s meat consumption, and ban the sale of newly produced cars which run on fossil fuels by 2025 if possible.
“A big part of the Swedish footprint comes from transport. The government should set a target for consumption-based emissions so that we can actually start to measure the emissions we cause in other ways through our imports,” the WWF’s Wirtén said.
According to the WWF, Sweden’s consumption footprint can be broken down as 32 percent on food, 29 percent on travel, 18 percent on goods, 12 percent on accommodation and nine percent on services.
The Swedish environmental challenges the WWF pointed out this year are similar to the ones highlighted the last time they produced a Living Planet Report in 2014, when the organization noted that Swedes “eat quite a lot of meat, have great cars, and import quite a lot of products from China”.
In September, Sweden (which is run by a coalition of the Social Democrats and Green Party) proposed to set aside 12.9 billion kronor in its budget for initiatives focusing on the environment and climate change over the next four year.