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Unexpectedly high price tag on emissions

17 January 2020

Shipping’s emissons of toxic substances and it’s contributions to eutrophication in the Baltic Sea are estimated to cost several billions a year. That shows new research from Chalmers and the IVL Swedish Environmental Institute.

A few years ago, a study was conducted which showed that people  are willing to pay around EUR 4 billion a year for an improved marine environment in the Baltic Sea. Randomly selected residents in all nine countries around the Baltic Sea had to answer the question: What are you willing to pay to reduce eutrophication? By far the most willing to pay was the Swedes who, on average, would like to pay SEK 1,000 per person per year. Occupational fishing, marine tourism and recreation are mainly the economic activities that are negatively affected each year. So how much of this, in terms of money, is shipping responsible for?

"It's about billions," says Erik Ytreberg, a researcher at Chalmers.

However, he does not want to give any exact figure on this "shadow price". Not yet. It has to wait until the next report in the project Valuation and instruments for shipping environmental impact (VäSt) is completed later this year. The purpose of the project is, as the name implies, to use the valuation to see how policy instruments can be designed to be as effective as possible.

Putting a price tag on the impact of shipping is not easy. In some areas, this is virtually impossible. Erik Ytreberg mentions underwater noise - a hot topic both politically and in terms of research.

“It is not possible to evaluate because the ecological effects of underwater noise are not clear. No limit values for it have not been set either by Sweden or the EU.”

When it comes to eutrophication and emissions of toxic substances, things are going better. Studies have been done in the past, studies that the new research is based on. One has simply followed the calculated emission prices for a variety of reference chemicals.

“In gray water, as in black water, for example, there can be hundreds of different chemicals. We have reviewed the reference literature available and compiled it to determine the concentrations of chemicals an average gray water contains. It has been a huge work.”

In order to get a price on what the shipping costs for eutrophication cost, it has also been possible to use previous studies in the project SHEBA, which was coordinated by IVL and where Chalmers researchers also studied the shipping traffic in the Baltic Sea.

“In this way, we have obtained how many tons of nitrogen that are emitted. We have then been able to run these figures with those of the willingness to pay-study for a cleaner Baltic Sea.”

Read the report here (not the final report)

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