Consumption-based GHG emission accounting: a UK case study

TitleConsumption-based GHG emission accounting: a UK case study
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsLe Quéré, C, Barrett, J, Peters, G, Wiedmann, T, Scott, K, Lenzen, M, Roelich, K
JournalClimate Policy
Start Page451
KeywordsCarbon leakage, consumption-based emissions, greenhouse gas emissions, policy appraisal, Sustainable Consumption

Global GHG emissions continue to rise, with nearly a quarter of it due to trade that is not currently captured within global climate policy. In the context of current trade patterns and limited global cooperation on climate change, the feasibility of consumption-based emissions accounting to contribute to a more comprehensive (national) policy framework in the UK is investigated. Consumption-based emissions results for the UK from a range of models are presented, their technical robustness is assessed, and their potential application in national climate policy is examined using examples of policies designed to reduce carbon leakage and to address high levels of consumption. It is shown that there is a need to include consumption-based emissions as a complementary indicator to the current approach of measuring territorial emissions. Methods are shown to be robust enough to measure progress on climate change and develop and inform mitigation policy. Finally, some suggestions are made for future policy-oriented research in the area of consumption-based accounting that will facilitate its application to policy. Policy relevance Emissions embodied in trade are rapidly increasing and there is thus a growing gap between production emissions and the emissions associated with consumption. This is a growing concern due to the absence of a global cap and significant variation in country-level mitigation ambitions. Robust measurements of consumption-based emissions are possible and provide new insights into policy options. This includes trade-related policy (e.g. border carbon adjustments) and domestic policies (e.g. resource efficiency strategies). As climate policy targets deepen, there is a need for a broad range of policy options in addition to production and technological solutions. Consumption-based emissions are complementary to production-based emissions inventories, which are still the most accurate estimate for aggregated emissions at the global level. However, without consumption-based approaches, territorial emissions alone will not provide a complete picture of progress in regional and national emissions reduction. © 2013 Copyright Taylor and Francis Group, LLC.