Swedish fuel dispensers will get eco-labels showing the climate impact and the origin of all fuels

The Swedish government decided August 9 2018 to introduce a regulation that forces all fuel retailers to inform consumers on the dispenser about the climate impact of their fuel, and also about its raw materials and their origin. The declared information derives from the reporting by the retailers to national agencies that is required by the EU. All member states in the EU may therefore introduce similar consumer information at short notice.

Inspirational sketches by the Swedish Association of Green Motorists showing how eco-labels on fuel dispensers may be designed. The Swedish Energy Agency will design the actual labels and decide the details of their content. (Click to enlarge)

The regulation that forces the retailers to put eco-labels on their fuel dispensers will come into force January 1, 2020. All suppliers of fluid or gaseous fuels for motor vehicles should provide overall information at the filling device about their climate impact, raw materials, and the country of origin of these raw materials. Eco-labels of this kind should also be present at the charging points for electric vehicles that are run by such retailers.

More detailed sustainability information of the same kind should be offered at the webpage of the retailers. Exceptions from the requirement to put eco-labels at the fuel dispenser are allowed for small filling stations which sell less than 1 500 m3 fluid fuel, and less than 1 000 000 m3 gaseous fuel per year.

[UPDATE: The implementation is postponed until October 1, 2021. The country of origin will no longer be disclosed at the filling device, but only on the web. The EU-commission complained about that, arguing that it "represents a measure capable of hindering imports of fuels produced in other Member States", and thus goes against the free trade rules of the inner EU-market. The Swedish government backed off.]

The declared sustainability information should derive from the annual reporting to the Swedish Energy Agency by the retailers about the fuels they sold the previous year. The statutes of this reporting were originally formulated by the EU. To avoid confusion among consumers it should be made clear on the eco-label that the information refers to the sale of the fuel in question by the retailer last year, rather than the fuel drops that are poured into the car here and now. This is the same system that is used on the declaration of origin shown on Swedish electricity bills, and derives from a directive from the EU.

It is still impossible to trace the raw materials of some fossil fuel to their place of origin. If the retailer cannot report the countries of origin of this raw material to the Swedish Energy Agency, this lack of information should be made clear on the eco-label at the fuel dispenser. The fact that the eco-label will sometimes tell “origin unknown”, or the like, will create a pressure to improve the traceability of our fossil petrol and diesel.

– We have been campaigning for eco-labels on fuel dispensers for more than five years, says Johanna Grant, chairperson of the Swedish Association of Green Motorists. We are therefore very happy with the decision by the Swedish government. The regulation conforms to our ideas about how such consumer information should be shaped.

The underlying purpose is to make the differences in climate impact of fossil fuels, biofuels and electricity clear to the public, to raise general awareness of the importance of sustainable fuels, and to allow Swedish fuel producers and retailers to compete with sustainability in a fair manner. There are no sustainable fossil fuels, of course, but biofuels and electricity may be sustainable or not depending on how they are produced.

Last year a climate law was passed by the Swedish parliament with wide political support. It requires that the emissions of greenhouse gases from the transport sector in Sweden should be reduced by 70 percent from 2010 to 2030.

The hot, dry summer and all forest fires in Sweden and elsewhere on the globe have reminded us that climate changes are for real. They are not just scenarios, simulations and worried scientists. The fuels used for road transport produce 30 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions in Sweden. To reduce the climate impact of these fuels is therefore essential in Sweden’s efforts to combat climate change.

– When the climate impact of the fuel is clearly visible at the very place we choose to pour it into our car we will feel our personal responsibility, says Per Östborn, campaign manager at the Swedish Association of Green Motorists. The consumer power that is released will then help reduce the carbon footprint of these fuels.

– But all responsibility cannot be put as a weight on the shoulders of the consumers, says Per Östborn. We must also have economic instruments of control that benefit the best fuels and regulations that prohibit the worst. Cap and trade mechanisms may also be effective, and such a scheme for fuels was introduced in Sweden this summer.

There are more values than low climate impact and renewability. The extraction of raw materials for fuels may harm nature and people. It is very unfortunate that seven percent of all fuels used on Swedish roads in 2017 (and more than 30 percent of all such biofuels) were produced by products from the palm oil industry, since they contribute to the devastation of rainforests in Southeast Asia. The socio-economic sustainability of the crude oil that is used to refine petrol and diesel depends heavily on its country of origin.

– We are therefore very happy that the eco-labels will also provide information about raw materials and their countries of origin, says Per Östborn. To avoid putting it on display the retailers will try to keep away from fuels that contribute to the devastation of rain forests or fatten brutal, authoritarian regimes. If they nevertheless import such fuels consumers will turn their backs on them.

In the end, it is not enough to put eco-labels on Swedish fuel dispensers alone. To affect the global fuel market in the slightest way, eco-labels must be put on fuel dispensers in many countries more. The Swedish system is constructed in such a way that all member states of the EU can, in principle, introduce the same kind of consumer information tomorrow. The USA and other countries which employ standardized methods to calculate the climate impact of their fuels in life cycle perspective (well-to-wheels) and keep track of their origin may also introduce similar eco-labels.

– Now we will do our best to inspire more countries to follow the example of Sweden, says Johanna Grant.

As Minister for the Environment, Karolina Skog passed the eco-labeling bill in 2018. She encourages more countries to follow the Swedish example.

The Green motorists' wider campaign We Want to Know

Read more about the Green motorists

Press release by the Swedish government (in Swedish)


The new regulation (in Swedish)


Information about the campaign We Want to Know


For more information, please contact

Per Östborn, Campaign manager, The Swedish Association of Green Motorists

per.ostborn@gronabilister.se, +46 73 819 61 54
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