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Sharing the doughnut: Exploring sustainable and just futures
KTH, School of Architecture and the Built Environment (ABE), Sustainable development, Environmental science and Engineering, Strategic Sustainability Studies. (Beyond GDP Growth Project, Prince project)ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4389-8984
2018 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Despite decades of international discussions or summits on the need to radically reduce e.g. increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHGs) or biodiversity loss, these are still rising. While these negative environmental trends continue, it is important to discuss alternative futures in an attempt to redirect society on a more sustainable and just path.

The overall aim of the thesis is to develop images of the future and explore what sustainable and just futures might look like. The current environmental impact of Swedish consumption, both in Sweden and abroad, is shown using eight indicators of environmental pressures and resource use – illustrating where in the world the pressures or resource use occur and for which product groups. This gives us a starting point as to where we are today regarding some of the environmental challenges facing Sweden.

Alternative futures that can challenge existing unsustainable trends are explored using four images of the future – so-called backcasting or long-term transformative scenarios. All of these need to fulfil two environmental and two social sustainability goals and do not rely on continued GDP growth.

These images represent different strategies to reach the four selected goals.

Such strategies may however have different consequences not just for these four specific goals but also for other sustainability issues and may have different implications for various groups in society. Therefore, they need to be evaluated accordingly. Existing methods to evaluate future scenarios regarding sustainability aspects are discussed in this thesis as well as the need to develop new methods to encompass all issues.

A combination of methods and data is used to evaluate what it would actually mean if the scenarios were to fulfil a climate target for Swedish consumption in line with the 1.5°C. trajectory suggested as the target to strive for in the Paris Climate Agreement and in the latest IPCC report (IPCC, 2018) as regards reduction of goods consumption and altered consumption patterns in Sweden.

This thesis stresses the need to clarify the assumptions made when formulating goals such as whether a perspective on intergenerational (between different generations) and intragenerational justice (within the current generation) is considered. It also underlines the need to identify and discuss potential goal conflicts that necessarily occur when considering several sustainability goals, whether they can be avoided or require potential trade-offs. It highlights the importance of making the underlying values embedded in assessment methods more visible. The intention in revealing goal conflicts, contradictions or hidden values is not to reach consensus but to ensure that the decisions are informed and made in a transparent manner.

Indeed, these considerations imply moving from a first and rather vague level of meaning of the concept of sustainability where everyone can agree on a definition but no concrete and practical guidance can be gained to a second level where conflicts arise and values differ.

Abstract [sv]

När de negativa miljötrenderna av t.ex. ökad koncentration av växthusgaser eller förlust av biologisk mångfald fortsätter trots flertalet internationella samtal och toppmöten om behovet av att radikalt minska dem, är det viktigt att diskutera alternativa framtider för att styra om samhället i en mer hållbar och rättvis riktning.

 Det övergripande målet med den här avhandlingen är att utveckla framtidsscenarier och undersöka hur hållbara och rättvisa framtider i Sverige skulle kunna se ut.

 Resultat för den nuvarande miljöpåverkan från svensk konsumtion i Sverige och utomlands presenteras genom åtta indikatorer för utsläpp av växthusgaser och andra utsläpp till luft samt för resursanvändning som visar var i världen utsläppen eller resursanvändningen sker och för vilka produktgrupper. Detta ger en utgångspunkt för var Sverige står idag vad gäller dessa miljöutmaningar.

 Då radikala minskningar av Sveriges miljöpåverkan behövs, undersöks sedan alternativa framtider som kan utmana nuvarande ohållbara trender genom utvecklingen av fyra framtidsbilder för Sverige, år 2050. Dessa så-kallade backcasting eller långsiktiga transformativa scenarier måste alla uppfylla fyra hållbarhetsmål: två miljömål och två sociala mål. Dessutom förutsätter inte scenarierna en fortsatt BNP-tillväxt. De belyser olika strategier för att nå de fyra valda hållbarhetsmålen.

 Sådana strategier kan emellertid ha olika konsekvenser både för de fyra valda målen men också för andra hållbarhetsaspekter och för olika grupper i samhället. Därför måste de utvärderas gentemot flera hållbarhetsmål. Befintliga metoder för att utvärdera framtida scenarier diskuteras i denna avhandling samt behovet av att utveckla nya metoder för att omfatta alla relevanta hållbarhetsaspekter.

En kombination av metoder och data tillämpas för att utvärdera vad det skulle innebära, när det gäller minskad varukonsumtion och förändrade konsumtionsmönster i Sverige, om scenarierna skulle uppfylla ett klimatmål för svensk konsumtion i linje med den i det globala Parisavtalet föreslagna ambition att begränsa den globala uppvärmningen till maximum 1,5°C som också understryks i senaste IPPC rapport (IPCC 2018).

 Denna avhandling betonar behovet av att klargöra de antaganden som görs när man formulerar mål, t.ex. om ett perspektiv på intergenerationell rättvisa (dvs. rättvisa mellan olika generationer) och intragenerationell rättvisa (inom den nuvarande generationen) har beaktats. Den belyser också behovet av att identifiera och diskutera potentiella målkonflikter som nödvändigtvis uppstår när man överväger flera hållbarhetsmål samtidigt, oavsett om de kan undvikas eller innebär potentiella kompromisser. Dessa kompromisser måste lyftas fram. Den här avhandlingen understryker även vikten av att synliggöra de antaganden och underliggande värderingar som är inbäddade i bedömningsmetoder. Syftet med att lyfta fram målkonflikter, värderingar eller implicita antaganden är inte att komma överens utan snarare att se till att beslut fattas på ett transparent och medvetet sätt.

Detta innebär att gå från en första nivå och en ganska vag definition av begreppet hållbarhet som alla är överens om men som inte ger någon konkret och praktisk vägledning till en annan nivå där konflikter uppstår och värderingar skiljer sig åt.

Abstract [fr]

Plusieurs décennies de discussions et une succession de sommets internationaux n’ont toujours pas permis de réduire de façon significative les concentrations croissantes de gaz à effet de serre (GES) ou l’érosion de la biodiversité. Alors que ces tendances environnementales alarmantes se poursuivent, il est important de mettre la pluralité d’avenirs possibles au centre des débats, afin de tenter de réorienter la société sur une voie plus juste et plus durable.

 

L'objectif général de cette thèse est de développer des images de l’avenir et d'explorer ce à quoi pourraient ressembler des futurs durables et justes.

 L’impact actuel de la consommation suédoise sur l’environnement, tant en Suède qu’à l’étranger, est ici mesuré par le biais de huit indicateurs des pressions exercées sur l’environnement (par exemple les émissions de gaz à effet de serre) et de l’utilisation de ressources naturelles - illustrant à quel endroit du monde elles produisent leurs effets et pour quels types de biens et services. Le résultat fournit une description de certains des défis environnementaux auxquels la Suède est aujourd’hui confrontée.

 La thèse examine des visions alternatives d’avenir plus soutenable sur la base de quatre scénarios normatifs en «backcasting», c’est à dire de transformation à long terme. Chacune des quatre représentations du futur doit remplir quatre objectifs de durabilité, dont deux environnementaux et deux sociaux, et cela sans compter sur une croissance continue du PIB.

 Ces représentations ou « images du futur » constituent différentes stratégies pour atteindre les quatre objectifs sélectionnés.

 De telles stratégies peuvent toutefois avoir des conséquences positives ou négatives, non seulement pour ces quatre objectifs spécifiques, mais également pour d'autres aspects environnementaux ou sociaux de la durabilité. Ils peuvent aussi avoir des implications diverses pour différents groupes sociaux. L’évaluation des scénarios doit donc tenir compte de ces impacts. Les outils existants d’évaluation de la durabilité dans les scénarios prospectifs sont discutés dans cette thèse, de même que la nécessité de développer de nouvelles méthodes pour mieux appréhender les différents aspects de la durabilité.

 Un éventail d’outils et de données est déployé pour évaluer les effets pour la Suède de la limitation du réchauffement planétaire à 1,5 degrés pour chacun des quatre scénarios, en termes de réduction de la consommation de biens et de modification des habitudes de consommation. Le seuil d’un réchauffement de 1,5 degrés au-dessus des niveaux préindustriels est en effet l’objectif le plus ambitieux fixé dans l'Accord de Paris sur le climat et confirmé dans le dernier rapport du GIEC (IPCC, 2018).

Cette thèse souligne la nécessité de clarifier les hypothèses retenues lors de la formulation des objectifs, par exemple en mentionnant si on privilégie une perspective de justice intergénérationnelle (entre différentes générations) et intragénérationnelle (au sein de la génération actuelle). Ce travail met également en évidence la nécessité d'identifier et de discuter des conflits qui se produisent nécessairement lorsque plusieurs objectifs de durabilité doivent être conciliés, afin de les éviter ou d’envisager les compromis possibles. Le propos insiste également sur l’importance d’une plus grande transparence quant aux valeurs sous-jacentes aux méthodes d’évaluation. En révélant ces conflits d’objectifs, ces contradictions ou ces valeurs cachées, l’objectif n’est pas d’atteindre un consensus, mais plutôt de veiller à ce que les décisions soient prises en connaissance de cause et de manière transparente.

 En effet, ces considérations impliquent de passer d'un premier niveau de définition assez vague du concept de durabilité, sur les termes duquel tout le monde peut s'accorder sans qu’aucune orientation concrète et pratique ne puisse être obtenue, à un deuxième niveau plus précis, où les valeurs diffèrent et les conflits surgissent.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: KTH Royal Institute of Technology, 2018. , p. 66
Series
TRITA-ABE-DLT ; 1840
Keywords [en]
Sustainability goals, goal conflicts, trade-offs, environmental justice, futures studies, backcasting, future scenarios, climate and energy targets, sustainability assessments
Keywords [fr]
Objectifs de durabilité, Conflit d'objectifs de durabilité, justice environnementale, prospective, backcasting, évaluation d'impacts de durabilité
Keywords [sv]
Hållbarhetsmål, målkonflikter, miljörättvisa, framtidsstudier, backcasting, framtidsscenarier, klimat och energimål, hållbarhetsutvärderingar
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Planning and Decision Analysis
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-239419ISBN: 978-91-7873-038-4 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:kth-239419DiVA, id: diva2:1265093
Public defence
2018-12-19, Kollegiesalen, Brinellvägen 8, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

QC 20181121

Available from: 2018-11-22 Created: 2018-11-22 Last updated: 2018-11-22Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Environmental pressure from Swedish consumption: - the largest contributing producer countries, products and services
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Environmental pressure from Swedish consumption: - the largest contributing producer countries, products and services
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(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In order to produce goods and services that are consumed in Sweden, natural resources are extracted and pollutants are emitted in many other countries. This paper presents an analysis of which products and services cause the largest environmental pressures in terms of resource use and emissions and in which countries or regions these pressures occur. The results have been calculated using a hybrid model developed in the PRINCE project combining the multi-regional input-output database Exiobase with data from the Swedish economic and environmental accounts. The following environmental pressures are analysed: Use of Land, Water and Material resources, Emissions of Greenhouse gases (GHG), Sulphur dioxides (SO2), Nitrogen oxides (NOx), and Particulate Matters (PM 2.5 and 10). The product groups include a range of goods and services bought for private or public consumption and investments. The results show that Sweden is a net importer of all embodied environmental pressures, except for land use and material use. The most important product groups across environmental pressures are construction, food products and direct emissions from households (except for sulphur dioxide emissions and material use for the latter). Other recurrent product groups across several indicators are wholesale and retail services, architecture and engineering, dwellings, motor vehicles and machinery and equipment. However, for the three natural resource pressures Use of Water, Land and Material resources, agricultural products are a relatively important product group along with products from forestry for the last two indicators. The environmental pressures occur to a large degree in Sweden but also some other countries stand out as particularly important. One significant country is China, which is among the top ten countries for all indicators. Other highly relevant countries or regions are Rest of Asia and Pacific, Russia, Denmark, Germany and Spain. This variation indicates the need to work on policies at various levels: national, EU, bilateral and international.

Keywords
Environmental pressures, footprints, hotspots, generational goal, consumption-based accounting, multi-regional input-output analysis
National Category
Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Planning and Decision Analysis
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-239396 (URN)
Projects
PRINCE
Note

QC 20181127

Available from: 2018-11-21 Created: 2018-11-21 Last updated: 2018-11-27Bibliographically approved
2. Social Justice Perspectives on Energy And Climate Targets
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Social Justice Perspectives on Energy And Climate Targets
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Are justice principles discussed and applied when setting energy and climate targets? We review a selection of targets and justice principles that are in use or could be considered in policy and planning. We analyse existing official targets and alternative targets in relation to justice principles and categorise them according to who is the receiver of justice, what is distributed and according to what principle. We find that official targets often lack justice perspectives, and when justice is addressed, it is often vaguely formulated. We conclude that justice perspectives should be applied to climate targets, and formulated in a concrete and explicit manner in order to be scrutinised and discussed, and also implemented in order to achieve justice in transitions towards halted climate change.

Keywords
Climate change; targets; justice; policy
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Planning and Decision Analysis
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-239399 (URN)
Note

QC 20181127

Available from: 2018-11-21 Created: 2018-11-21 Last updated: 2018-11-27Bibliographically approved
3. Towards multi-target backcasting approach for robust climate change mitigation strategies: A Swedish case study on an environmental assessment of climate mitigation scenarios.
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Towards multi-target backcasting approach for robust climate change mitigation strategies: A Swedish case study on an environmental assessment of climate mitigation scenarios.
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(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In the face of climate change, a major challenge for policy makers is to develop robust scenario-based strategies for climate change adaptation and mitigation options. This paper presents a novel approach for environmental assessment of climate change mitigation scenarios. Scenarios, and particularly backcasting scenarios, are often used as a strategy for exploring options and measures for achieving environmental targets, such as climate change mitigation. Measures and options generated through backcasting scenarios are often opted for achieving one particular target and such scenarios are seldom assessed in relation to other environmental aspects. This limits the achievability of other goals and policies. When the implementation of a measure makes it more difficult to fulfil some other goal that the decision maker aims to achieve, a conflict arises between these goals. This paper presents a qualitative environmental assessment of scenarios that identifies conflicts and synergies in regard to a broad range of environmental targets. The method is illustrated in an assessment of four future scenarios assuming zero greenhouse gas emissions 2060 in relation to a variety of environmental aspects, operationalized in policy goals. The scenarios concern rural land use in Sweden, and the goals were the Swedish environmental goals. In this paper potential goal conflicts and synergies that could arise if the strategies and developments in the scenarios were to be realised are analysed. We discuss the assessment and point at research needs that have to be addressed if we are to understand how to better assess

1

environmental goal conflicts, and produce scenario outcomes that can inform specific policies, but with less risk of imposing on fulfilment of other policy goals.

Keywords
Backcasting scenarios, Environmental assessment, goal conflicts, synergies, climate change mitigation
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Planning and Decision Analysis
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-239401 (URN)
Note

QC 20181127

Available from: 2018-11-21 Created: 2018-11-21 Last updated: 2018-11-27Bibliographically approved
4. Four Sustainability Goals in a Swedish Low-Growth/Degrowth Context
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Four Sustainability Goals in a Swedish Low-Growth/Degrowth Context
2016 (English)In: Sustainability, ISSN 2071-1050, E-ISSN 2071-1050, Vol. 8, no 1080Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Continual environmental degradation and an unfair distribution of environmental burdens and benefits are two great challenges for humanity. Economic growth is often taken for granted when planning for the future. However, it is often argued that maintaining economic growth conflicts with keeping human activities adjusted to ecological boundaries and finite resources, at least for the more-developed countries. With this paper, we present sustainability goals for building and planning in Sweden to be achieved by 2050 in a context of limited or even negative economic growth. These goals should ensure that all groups in society have sufficient resources and a good life within planetary boundaries. We select four goals in a participatory process: two environmental goals related to climate change and land use and two social goals related to welfare and participation. Our results show that achieving the environmental goals will require significant reductions of Sweden’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and land use compared to today’s levels. Regarding the social goals, these are, in many aspects, reasonably well fulfilled in Sweden today, although disparities remain between groups of citizens. The main challenge, however, is to ensure that these goals are fulfilled even within environmental limits and if economic growth should halt.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Basel: MDPI AG, 2016
Keywords
sustainability goals, degrowth, environmental justice
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Planning and Decision Analysis
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-196668 (URN)10.3390/su8111080 (DOI)000389316200003 ()2-s2.0-85000392922 (Scopus ID)
Funder
Swedish Research Council Formas
Note

QC 2016118

Available from: 2016-11-17 Created: 2016-11-17 Last updated: 2018-11-22Bibliographically approved
5. Scenarios for sustainable futures beyond GDP growth 2050
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Scenarios for sustainable futures beyond GDP growth 2050
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(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

 

The idea of continued economic growth is increasingly questioned and critically analysed on the basis of its potential negative sustainability impact. Along with the critique, visions and strategies for alternative systems need also be brought onto the agenda. The aim of this paper is to present the qualitative content of scenarios that explore sustainability strategies for Swedish society when economic growth is not seen as an end in itself, and the goal is instead other values/goals that society might wish to achieve. Multi-target backcasting scenarios are developed, that illustrate future states in which four sustainability targets (climate, land use, participation and resource security) are to be attained. The focus of the four scenarios is: 1) collaborative economy, 2) local self-sufficiency, 3) automation for quality of life, and 4) circular economy in the welfare state. In the paper, we also present the process of the development of the scenarios and feedback from stakeholders. Although the focus is on Sweden, the process and scenarios should also be relevant for other similar countries. The scenarios are discussed in terms of their relevance and their purpose, the fulfilment of the sustainability goals and the multi-target approach.

Keywords
Multi target, sustainability goals, backcasting, scenarios, beyond growth
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Planning and Decision Analysis
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-239413 (URN)
Note

QC 20181127

Available from: 2018-11-22 Created: 2018-11-22 Last updated: 2018-11-27Bibliographically approved
6. Methods for assessing future scenarios from a sustainability perspective
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Methods for assessing future scenarios from a sustainability perspective
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2017 (English)In: European Journal of Futures Research, ISSN 2195-4194, E-ISSN 2195-2248, Vol. 5, no 1, article id UNSP 17Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Future scenarios are often used to address long-term challenges characterised by uncertainty and complexity, as they can help explore different alternative future pathways. Scenarios can therefore be a useful tool to support policy and guide action towards sustainability. But what sustainability aspects are put forward in scenarios and how are they assessed? This paper aims to explore how to assess future scenarios, categorised according to Borjeson et al. (Futures 38: 723-739, 2006) i.e. predictive, explorative and normative scenarios. By conducting a literature review and a document analysis, we map tools and methods that are currently used to assess environmental and social sustainability aspects in scenarios. We also draw on experiences from methods for impact assessments of Swedish municipal comprehensive plans, which can be considered as future scenarios. We identify whether some sustainability aspects are less recurrent than others in the reviewed assessments or even left out. We find that there is no single tool that can be used to assess scenarios. Some quantitative tools based on databases may be more suitable for assessing scenarios within a shorter time horizon, whereas qualitative assessment methods might better fit the purpose of long-term transformative scenarios. We also find that assessment frameworks may be useful to guide the assessment, as to what its intended purpose is and which sustainability aspects to include. Finally we discuss whether further assessment tools are needed in order to include a wider array of potential environmental or social consequences of the content of scenarios.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
SPRINGER HEIDELBERG, 2017
Keywords
Future scenarios, Backcasting, Sustainability assessments, Assessment methods, Assessment tools, Environmental, Social
National Category
Environmental Management
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-220828 (URN)10.1007/s40309-017-0121-9 (DOI)000418373900001 ()2-s2.0-85041582321 (Scopus ID)
Note

QC 20180122

Available from: 2018-01-22 Created: 2018-01-22 Last updated: 2018-11-22Bibliographically approved
7. Low-carbon futures for a Swedish society beyond GDP growth
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Low-carbon futures for a Swedish society beyond GDP growth
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This paper describes how different backcasting scenarios for developments beyond traditional GDP growth 2050,  in Sweden may fulfill a climate goal corresponding to keeping global warming to a maximum 1.5 degrees with 50% likelihood. This corresponds to  a 92% decrease of GHG emissions from Swedish consumption from today’s level. The four scenarios illustrate different strategies: 1) collaborative economy, 2) local self-sufficiency, 3) automation for quality of life and 4) circular economy in the welfare state. The aim is to further precise and quantify the scenario narratives with a focus on GHG emissions occurring as a result of Swedish consumption, both private and public. Preliminary results show that, as we assume that Sweden is fossil-free 2050, particular areas of attention are diets, air travel, emission intensities in other countries and the level of imports.. Potential implications for other environmental goals are discussed.

Keywords
Climate, backcasting scenarios, consumption-based emissions, assessment
National Category
Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Planning and Decision Analysis
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:kth:diva-239402 (URN)
Note

QC 20181127

Available from: 2018-11-21 Created: 2018-11-21 Last updated: 2018-11-27Bibliographically approved

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