Indicator Economy and Consumption

Total environmental impact of consumption

The indicator shows the impacts arising from Swiss consumption at home and abroad across all areas of the environment. Raw materials and energy are needed, for example, for the production of consumer goods, and settlements, transportation, and the cultivation of food and animal feed require land and water. While the overuse of resources in Switzerland is likely to affect the economic system and quality of life here in the medium to long term, it is already having severe impacts in other countries, for example due to the logging of forests, climate change and water scarcity.

The total environmental impact is recorded on the basis of eco-points (PIA, see Method).

Assessment of the state
poor poor
Assessment of the trend
unsatisfactory unsatisfactory
Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2015: 16.9386048205161 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2015: 6.42035555761607 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2014: 16.8806376450528 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2014: 6.52763641822678 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2013: 17.1298027793737 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2013: 7.0320812592124 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2012: 16.8407365170844 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2012: 7.03916460911997 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2011: 17.2427982057689 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2011: 6.99881350284336 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2010: 17.1440153623938 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2010: 7.42234258932708 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2009: 16.100488719458 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2009: 7.44748468698983 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2008: 17.5458378855819 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2008: 7.76888517538462 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2007: 17.6525287658657 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2007: 7.87373178605001 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2006: 17.7481226867413 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2006: 8.35296985347986 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2005: 17.5889648122277 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2005: 8.43798568847712 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2004: 17.8659050699955 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2004: 8.59486574573992 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2003: 17.4569543864887 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2003: 8.81455092172626 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2002: 18.1431344430112 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2002: 9.46323222359142 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2001: 18.8761538296321 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2001: 9.85264667771245 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2000: 18.7331296110597 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2000: 10.1552122478678 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 1999: 17.5594128459109 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 1999: 10.7249312972998 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 1998: 17.5143316907846 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 1998: 11.0778459204172 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 1997: 17.6053163335286 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 1997: 11.5338272804508 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 1996: 16.8062746630499 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 1996: 12.1839387902596

Data for the graph: Excel
Source: FOEN
Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2015: 140292.232811023 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2015: 53175.9271889771 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2014: 138229.616571524 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2014: 53452.5234284763 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2013: 138568.901594115 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2013: 56884.9384058848 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2012: 134673.029064748 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2012: 56291.2209352517 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2011: 136431.882037729 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2011: 55377.3979622708 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2010: 134150.377249349 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2010: 58079.1627506513 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2009: 124679.479761378 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2009: 57672.0702386218 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2008: 134184.883297455 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2008: 59413.9167025447 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2007: 133296.310056917 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2007: 59455.4699430826 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2006: 132825.796559597 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2006: 62513.0834404028 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2005: 130811.171628456 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2005: 62754.2783715442 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2004: 132022.356618771 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2004: 63512.8433812291 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2003: 128116.623156349 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2003: 64690.0068436509 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2002: 132168.271206264 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2002: 68937.3187937365 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2001: 136411.300444449 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2001: 71201.5995555507 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2000: 134583.486408256 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 2000: 72957.5835917442 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 1999: 125444.287336472 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 1999: 76618.8126635279 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 1998: 124526.933350142 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 1998: 78763.5066498578 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 1997: 124802.432588649 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 1997: 81762.2174113511 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 1996: 118851.470282164 Total environmental impact generated at home by domestic consumption 1996: 86162.999717836

Data for the graph: Excel
Source: FOEN
Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2015: 139.752417330486 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2014: 139.061558104541 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2013: 135.722798943503 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2012: 135.693938369027 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2011: 134.013724272177 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2010: 131.203593361052 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2009: 133.783675721862 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2008: 125.907474084129 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2007: 125.835833784749 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2006: 123.78533781305 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2005: 122.282024123334 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2004: 120.016173977979 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2003: 116.735155665179 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2002: 110.817460571308 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2001: 109.365709546163 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 2000: 107.741513444907 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 1999: 107.042244682983 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 1998: 106.995183095201 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 1997: 101.21997835182 Total environmental impact generated abroad by domestic consumption 1996: 100
Trend in consumption-related total environmental efficiency (quotient from economic domestic end final demand and total environmental impact)

Data for the graph: Excel
Source: FOEN
Comment

Between 1996 and 2015, the total environmental impact footprint fell by 19% (with annual fluctuations) from 29.0 million to 23.4 million eco-points per capita. However, with a 17% increase in population during this period, the actual fall is much lower (6%). As we import a lot of products, the environmental impact is primarily felt abroad. Around three-quarters of our environmental impact in 2015 was outside Switzerland.

As the production and consumption of goods and services has an impact on the environment, we might expect the total impact to rise in line with domestic final demand. But this is not the case. While final demand in Switzerland has increased by 32%, its environmental impact has actually fallen. Hence, a decoupling between prosperity and total environmental impact has taken place. In other words, the consumption-related total environmental efficiency has improved.

The current trend is particularly due to successful efforts in Switzerland to control air pollution and protect the ozone layer, with legal requirements and technological developments playing a key role. A larger market share of environmentally friendly goods and services may also have had a positive effect.

The current total environmental impact is at least three times the threshold for the sustainable use of resources. This threshold is 6.8 million eco-points per capita in 2030 (Frischknecht et al., 2018). The figures used for the underlying calculation are based on the planetary boundaries, Swiss environmental policy targets, and an extrapolation to global consumption.

The decrease in total environmental impact up to now is still significantly above the necessary reduction path, and the progress made to date does not include all areas of the environment. The status is therefore assessed as negative, and the trend as unsatisfactory.

International comparison

The indicator in eco-points is quantified on the basis of Switzerland’s environmental policy targets. Hence there is no international comparison. The approach has been adopted in the scientific debate in other countries like Germany and Japan.

Method

Method for aggregating different types of environmental impact: In order to record and evaluate the total impact across all environmental factors such as emissions in the air and water, heavy metals in the ground, consumption of raw materials, etc., methods are required that are also capable of expressing environmental impacts as a figure. This example uses the ecological scarcity method – also known as the UBP method. This method expresses all environmental impacts in the unit of eco-points (Umweltbelastungspunkte, UBP). In the UBP method, the various environmental impacts are weighted according to the distance of the current environmental situation (emissions and demand on resources) to the existing targets of a country or region using eco-factors (“distance-to-target approach”). In Switzerland, the UBP method is geared towards Switzerland’s environmental goals and international environmental goals supported by Switzerland, which are in turn based on scientific knowledge. The further a current pollutant emission is from the target, the greater the significance of its environmental impact within the overall balance. However, the true extent of the environmental impact ultimately depends on the quantity of pollutants emitted. The emitted quantity is therefore multiplied with the eco-factor of the emission.

Footprint perspective method: When modelling the environmental impact caused by our consumption, consideration is given to the entire value chain for all goods and services consumed, i.e. the extraction, production and transportation, etc., right up to their use and disposal. In addition to the resources used and emissions produced in Switzerland, the pressure on the environment in other countries is also taken into account. The environmental impact caused by export goods is deducted, as this is not included in domestic consumption. This is in line with the system boundaries of the footprint or consumption perspective.

It is based on a combination of emissions, trade and lifecycle analysis data, with the latter now being used regionalised for loss of biodiversity and freshwater abstraction. The underlying calculation comes from the publication Environmental Footprints of Switzerland.

Comparison with the “ecological footprint”: This indicator is related to, but should not be confused with, the “ecological footprint” as defined by the Global Footprint Network. From the point of view of consumption, this indicator consolidates direct land use, wild-caught fish, and the areas of forest (theoretically) required to offset fossil carbon emissions into one figure. The ecological footprint is not a comprehensive environmental indicator. It does not take account of consumption of fresh water and other renewable and non-renewable natural resources, the loss of biodiversity or the environmental impact of air pollutants, heavy metals, nitrogen and persistent pollutants. Its main benefits are clear communication and widespread recognition. As a projection, Switzerland’s ecological footprint exceeds its global biocapacity by around three times. Despite major methodical differences, the resulting need for action is similar to that produced by the UBP method.

 
Last updated on: 11.02.2019

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