EU: Matching the walk and talk

Climate Policy JournalFor the EU’s climate change leadership to succeed, it must understand how its policies have performed to curb the EU carbon footprint to date.  This new article in Climate Policy analyzes the structure of the EU’s carbon footprint, as well as its drivers.  Importantly, it uses consumption-based carbon accounting rather than the usual territorial approach, to more fully understand how developed countries (and their policies) affect GHG emissions.  In this way, the portions of carbon footprint due to domestic and international trade drivers are made more clear and permit policy development apt for each set of circumstances.

The article’s key takeaways:

  • The EU has reduced its overall carbon footprint by 8% since 2007, primarily due to more efficient technology.  but at a slower rate than production-based emissions, and rarely faster than GDP growth.
  • Emissions associated with imported goods comprise one-third of the EU carbon footprint, which “grew strongly” until 2008 and have stabilized since then.
  • Consumption growth has had a much greater impact on the EU carbon footprint than the offshoring of production.
  • Trade, as reflected in both imports and exports, is important for the EU manufacturing sector, reflecting increased trade intensity related to specialization, not “wholesale ‘de-industrialisation’”.
  • At least two major sources of imported GHGs – mining and agriculture – are largely unavoidable results of European consumption patterns because they cannot not realistically occur within the EU.