Downscaling consumption to universal basic income level falls short of sustainable carbon footprint in Finland

Salla Kalaniemi, Juudit Ottelin*, Jukka Heinonen, Seppo Junnila

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
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Human economic activities and following carbon emissions have been recognized to be a real threat to the environment. The current levels of consumption-based carbon footprints in all developed economies grossly exceed the sustainable level. Scientists have concluded that in addition to technological solutions, downscaling of consumption and far-reaching changes in lifestyles will be needed to achieve environmental sustainability. In this study, we provide a tangible real-world example that reveals the scale of the needed change from a perspective of a European welfare state citizen. Universal basic income (UBI) represents an income that is just enough to fulfil basic needs, such as food, shelter, and medication. In our case country, Finland, UBI is in practice at the same level as the income of the lowest income decile. The purpose of this study is to present and analyse the carbon footprints at a consumption level that corresponds to UBI. We compare the carbon footprints at this low-income level to average Finnish carbon footprints and discuss their sustainability in the light of global carbon budgets. We use an input-output approach based on the Finnish ENVIMAT model. The average carbon footprint at the UBI level is 4.8 tCO2-eq and it focuses on necessities. It's significantly lower than the average carbon footprint in Finland, 9.4 tCO2-eq, but still far from the level compatible with the current climate change mitigation targets. The results emphasize how challenging it is to find true low-carbon solutions for living in affluent countries. Lifestyle changes and technological leaps need to be combined and fostered by legislation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)377-383
Number of pages7
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2020
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Carbon budget
  • Climate change
  • Degrowth
  • Greenhouse gas emissions
  • Input-output analysis
  • Sustainable consumption


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