The SSAB steel mill in Oxelösund generates 96 percent of the municipality's emissions. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT
Per capita emissions in Sweden vary wildly from as little as 0.5 tonnes per capita a year in some municipalities on the outskirts of Stockholm, to 129 tonnes per capita in major industrial clusters, according to statistics from Sweden's National Emissions Database.
But before you start patting yourself on the back, you should know that the difference has little or nothing to do with the actions of individuals.
“It's a question of where our heavy industry is based and where the big motorways are,” said Birgit Nielsen, the database's contact person. “It's reflects more or less those municipalities which have big fossil fuel using industries. And those aren't in Stockholm.”
A full 96 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions from Oxelösund come from its huge local steel mill. Other big per capita emitters are Mörbylånga on Åland, which has a cement plant, and Lysekil near Gothenburg, which has an oil refinery.
Of the 20 municipalities with the lowest greenhouse gas emissions, 15 are in Stockholm County, five are in the university city of Lund, three — Partille, Lerum and Öckerö — are Gothenburg commuter towns, and one, Vellinge, is a Malmö commuter town.
The municipality which generates the most greenhouse gases in Sweden is Luleå, another steel town, which generated 3.9 million tonnes in 2016, about 50 tonnes a person.
According to Nielsen, individuals who want to understand their own contribution to global emissions are better off studying their own consumption patterns than looking at the per capita emissions of their local municipality.
“You have to work it out from a consumption perspective. What do you create when you drive your car, go on holiday? How big is your apartment? What do you buy when you go shopping,” Nielsen said.
Swedish industry, she pointed out, had reduced its total emissions significantly, while the emissions generated by consumers had remained stable over the last decade.
“It's the same when people talk about Sweden's per capita emissions and think 'oooh, how clever we are'. But the emissions we generate from how we live is the same as it was a decade ago. The difference is just that the production happens overseas.”