Accounting Emissions Related To Consumption

The underlying question of the Carbon-CAP project was to assess whether a consumption based carbon accounting and associated climate policy could have an added value to the existing production based approach as a means to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A production based approach requires a geographically identified system. A consumption oriented approach requires something different: a functional, cradle-to-grave or “footprint” approach, usually including processes in different geographical areas.

So far, policy has mainly focused on production and nations, and therefore, has used a territorial approach. This is also apparent when looking at greenhouse gas emission databases: they are organised by country and by activity. A consumption based approach needs something different. A consumption based approach should have the following features:

  • It is essential that the greenhouse gas emissions are first linked to sectors of production and then to consumption categories such as food, housing, transport, recreation and suchlike. Usually, as many supply chains are international, many national authorities are involved.
  • The information base should allow for an analysis of consumption systems that cannot be confined to geographical boundaries.
  • The relevant scale lies beyond nations and activities, ranging from the micro-level of consumers and products, via the national level where some policies are implemented, up to the global level where products are traded and the (climate change) impacts take place.
  • The data quality should be sufficient as a base for policy, i.e. it should not put policy on the wrong foot and the margins of uncertainty should not be so large that results are meaningless. As consumption based accounting and modelling is relatively new, this is probably a major issue.
  • Data for the past can also be used to assess hotspots and identify the most important consumption categories, setting priorities for policy.

On this basis, the project reviewed the following approaches and the results are presented in the table below.

accounting emission table

The conclusion was that for assessing the past and the present, environmentally extended Input-Output (IO) analysis, possibly hybridized with Life Cycle Assessment, seems the best approach. This enables assessments at the micro- as well as the macro-level. Chains can be traced back to the point of extraction and hotspots can be identified. Burden shifting to other locations, and in theory also to other impact categories, can be detected. Other approaches miss essential elements.

The disadvantage of the approach is that significant work must be done on the integration of the process based life-cycle inventories with the macro IO tables. As such, only for product groups containing highly divergent products in terms of embodied carbon content is integration suitable

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Addressing Carbon Emissions Embodied In Trade
Results

Addressing Carbon Emissions Embodied In Trade

The 2014 IPCC report recognises consumption as an important driver for emissions and highlights the gap between countries’ territorial based and consumption-based emissions...

Accounting Emissions Related To Consumption
Results

Accounting Emissions Related To Consumption

A climate policy requires an information base to monitor past developments, spot trends and also to estimate the effectiveness and side-effects of measures.

Policy Options
Results

Policy Options

The Carbon-CAP project looked at what options might be available to stimulate an effective climate policy mix that addresses consumption-related emissions.

Policies By Sector
Results

Policies By Sector

The most promising potential lies in the use of reclaimed construction materials and/or recycled materials.

Finding The Best Policy
Most effective policies

Finding The Best Policy

This interactive tool allows to navigate through the results of the research. It is an illustrative tool for communications purposes that only partly reflects the research findings. You can also modify the findings and give feedback.