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Finland has exceeded the limits of sustainable well-being

Consumption in Finland has exceeded the level that is globally just and sustainable. With the exception of the use of fresh water, consumption by Finns exceeds all of the biophysical boundaries. According to a study carbon emissions from consumption by Finns were 14.7 tons a year in 2014. This exceeds the limit of 1.6 tons per capita by nearly a factor of ten. The excess is even greater in nitrogen emissions: emissions of nitrogen from Finnish consumption are globally 96.3 kilos per person, while the limit is 8.9 kilos per person a year. High nitrogen emissions can already be seen in eutrophication of the Baltic Sea, for instance.

Picture Which planetary boundaries does Finland oversterp
Picture. Social goals that have been achieved by Finland and how they relate to the limits of the planet. Finland has achieved the social goals in all areas except employment. However, Finnish consumption is not sustainable; the environmental impact of per capita consumption exceeds the fair level. Source: O’Neill et al. 2018. © SYKE & SITRA

Link to the larger file

Finnish sustainable well-being in proportion to biophysical boundaries and social thresholds

Biophysical Indicator Finland Per Capita
CO2 Emissions 14.7 1.6 tonnes CO2 per year
Phosphorus 6.5 0.9 kilograms P per year
Nitrogen 96.3 8.9 kilograms N per year
Blue Water 211 574 cubic metres H2O per year
eHANPP 4.4 2.6  tonnes C per year
Ecological Footprint 4.8 1.7 global hectares (gha)
per year
Material Footprint 30.9 7.2 tonnes per year


Social Indicator Finland Threshould Unit
Life Satisfaction 7.4 6.5 [0-10] Cantril scale
Healthy Life Expect. 70.5 65 years of healthy life
Nutrition 3285 2700 kilocalories per capita
per day
Sanitation 100 95 % with access to
improved sanitation
Income 100 95 % who earn above
$1.90 per day
Access to Energy 100 95 % with access to
Education 107.5 95 % enrolment in
secondary school
Social Support 93.8 90 % with friends or family
they can depend on
Democratic Quality 1.5 0.8 Democratic Quality Index
Equality 74.2 70 [0-100] Scale ->
(1 - Gini Index) * 100
Employment 92.3 94 % of labour force

(Source O'Neill et. al. 2018)

Long life expectancy, a high level of education, and high life satisfaction have been achieved through comprehensive social policy and economic growth. The Nordic welfare state is often seen as a success story for how well-being is shared in an equitable manner. However, the other side of the coin is a high level of consumption of natural resources and energy. When welfare policies are not on an ecologically sustainable basis, the foundation of well-being and the economy is endangered.
Published 2018-09-13 at 15:54, updated 2018-09-14 at 10:24

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