Setting priorities within product-oriented environmental policy: the Danish perspectives

Weidema B P, Suh S, Notten P (2006)

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Journal of Industrial Ecology 10(3):73-87


To focus Danish product-oriented environmental policy, a study applying extended input-output analysis has been performed, identifying the most important product groups from an environmental perspective. The environmental impacts are analyzed from three different perspectives—the supply perspective, the consumption perspective, and the process perspective—differing primarily in their system delimitation. The top ten environmentally most important product groups (out of 138 industry products and 98 final consumption groups) are listed for each of the three perspectives, using both total environmental impact and environmental impact intensity as ranking principles. The study covers all substances that contribute significantly to the environmental impact categories of global warming, ozone depletion, acidification, nutrient enrichment, photochemical ozone formation, ecotoxicity, human toxicity, and nature occupation. The differences in results between the three perspectives are elaborated and their policy relevance discussed. The top ten product groups account for a surprisingly large share of the total environmental impact of Danish production and consumption (up to 45%, depending upon the perspective). This implies that product-oriented environmental policy may achieve large improvements by focusing on a rather small number of product groups. Both imported products and products produced for export in general cause more environmental impact than products produced in Denmark for the Danish market. Especially noticeable are the export of meat and ship transport. This leads to the recommendation to include specific policy measures targeting both foreign producers and foreign markets. Because of its relatively large input of labor, public consumption is found to have a much smaller environmental impact intensity than private consumption. The results confirm results of other similar studies, but are more detailed and have lower uncertainty, due to a number of improvements in data and methodology. A short presentation of the methodology is provided as background information, although this is not the main focus of this article.

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