Abstract

This article examines the evolution of energy use and pollution emissions in Sweden over the past two centuries — a much longer period than has been investigated in the large literature on the environmental Kuznets curve. In this article we show that both energy consumption and pollution emissions in Sweden declined relative to GDP over the last two hundred years. In absolute terms both energy use and pollution increased up until 1970, after which date energy consumption stabilised and pollutant emissions declined, leading to less environmental stress. The energy intensity results are decomposed to determine the relative impact of structural changes in the output structure versus within-sector changes. For the period after 1970 another decomposition for pollution emissions is performed to separate out changes in preferences from energy-related changes. The analyses show that technical change in a broad sense has been crucial for explaining the long-term decline in both energy intensity and pollutant intensity, while the transition to the service economy had negligible effects. Changed preferences affected the decline in emissions after 1970.

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