Stockholm University’s carbon emissions decreased by 30 percent in 2020 according to the findings of a report produced by Swedish environmental consultancy company Svalna.

“Without a doubt, this reduction was caused by the COVID pandemic.It is interesting to see how a pandemic that has drastically changed our behaviour can affect the climate,” says Magnus Breitholtz, Head of the Department of Environmental Science and Chairman of the Environmental Board at Stockholm University.

The main reason for the reduction is that staff did not use flights over 50 km to the same extent as in previous years. Instead, real estate as well as goods and services accounted for the majority of emissions. But there are details that will be investigated further to create more reliable calculations in the future.

Tools and methods for measuring the University’s emissions

To calculate total emissions, the University hired the environmental consultancy company Svalna. The statistical method used by Svalna used invoices at the university to calculate emissions that are reported as carbon dioxide equivalents. In the future, institutes and departments will be able to calculate their own emissions.

Magnus Breitholtz
Foto : Rickard Kilström

“It is very important that we now have a tool that we can use to monitor our greenhouse gas emissions. It is a central part of our climate work – to know is to measure,” says Magnus Breitholtz.

Secondary data still causes some uncertainty

There are still some input data that are more difficult to collect leading to some degree of uncertainty in the method.

“Further corrections and improvements will need to be made to the calculation method and model in the future. The big challenge will be to access all emissions that come from the actual production of goods and services,” says Viktor Lundborg, Environmental Controller at Stockholm University, who is currently leading the work of mapping greenhouse gas emissions with regard to purchasing and procurement.

Primary data are currently used to map what carbon dioxide emissions look like from, among other things, business trips and energy consumption. However, when it comes to purchasing goods and services, it becomes much more complicated to collect primary data, and in several cases there are no data for goods and services at all. To overcome this hurdle, the calculation model uses secondary data that are linked to the environmental impact of the specific industries the products service originate from.

“When it comes to carbon dioxide emissions from business trips or energy use for heating, we calculate emissions basedon the number of flight kilometers or kilowatt hours. In general, this is not a problem as we have access to most of thisdata, ”says Viktor Lundborg. He continues:  “The construction industry is responsible for high carbon emissions, therefore the climate footprint from our construction projects is large. At the same time, we know that older buildings are less energy efficient and therefore more emissions are generated through higher energy consumption for heating. In the future, I hope that we can compare different alternatives and make recommendations to reduce our climate impact. By diving deep into each alternative, we can find out whether it is most climate-smart to build new premises or to renovate old ones.”

More about the climate work at Stockholm University

In December last year, a climate roadmap for the period 2020–2040 was adopted by the Vice President. A central part of the plan is to identify and characterise all greenhouse gas emissions of Stockholm University.

In 2020, the company Svalna was hired to calculate the University’s climate impact for years 2016–2019. Svalna has developed a climate calculation model that combines accounting data with emission data from environmentally adapted multiregional input-output models and data from life cycle analyses to estimate greenhouse gas emissions from purchases of goods and services.

In the study carried out by Svalna, 380,000 invoices were analysed and over 99 percent of the costs were categorized. Between 2016 and 2019, the climate footprint averaged at approximately 1.37 tonnes of carbon dioxide per full-time student and 7.48 tonnes of carbon dioxide per annual workforce.

Contact information

Visiting addresses:

Geovetenskapens Hus,
Svante Arrhenius väg 8, Stockholm

Arrheniuslaboratoriet, Svante Arrhenius väg 16, Stockholm (Unit for Toxicological Chemistry)

Mailing address:
Department of Environmental Science
Stockholm University
106 91 Stockholm

Press enquiries should be directed to:

Stella Papadopoulou
Science Communicator
Phone +46 (0)8 674 70 11