For more details on the multiregional input-output method and its connection to land footprint please read our open access article published in Global Environmental Change, and its supporting information, available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0959378012001501
For more details on the weighting method of land and water area please visit: http://www.footprintnetwork.org.
We argue that it is the per capita footprint which should be used for comparison of countries. A footprint per capita is too high if it exceeds global bio-capacity per capita, which is about 1,8 gha. For more details visit: http://www.footprintnetwork.org.
We are aware of the uncertainty of the results. However, it is difficult to express that quantitatively. We expect the errors to be less than 20 %, which keeps the general picture unchanged.
Why does it matter that e.g. Norwegians have a high land footprint per capita when there is so much land available in Norway?
There are two main reasons for this. First, a significant share of the Norwegian footprint is imported from other countries, where it results in environmental problems. The second is the ethical perspective regarding sharing of planetary resources. All people should have the same right to use the resources of our planet equally, irrespective of where and when they live. Therefore, the Norwegian land could be used for production of goods and services consumed by people who live in countries with lower bio-capacity.
Different land types are capable of providing different resources and ecological services, each one having a different value for humans. The land types included in our analysis are thus weighted and compared based on their world average bio-productivity. For more details visit: http://www.footprintnetwork.org.
Our analysis is focused on human requirements on bio-productive areas. Coastal marine water areas as well as inland waters are highly bio-productive, providing fish and other useful biomass.
The present study is focused on the current use of commodities derived from land and does not consider the land which would be needed in order to stabilize atmospheric CO2 concentrations. The Ecological Footprint further quantifies the forest area which would be needed for sequestration of anthropogenic CO2 emissions in order to prevent the buildup of atmospheric CO2. Since this is not happening, this land stays on the level of virtual land and does not present any real land use. Per capita carbon footprints and trade effects have been studied separately, see the carbon footprint at http://carbonfootprintofnations.com/content/wealth_and_responsibility/.
The only conceptual difference between the land and Ecological Footprint is that the carbon uptake land is excluded in the former. However, our footprint results further differ to those calculated by the Global Footprint Network (GFN) because the calculation method has been changed to improve the estimates of upstream (supply chain) effects. Moreover, while GFN uses process analysis based on physical flow data with a limited number of production steps, the results presented here were obtained from an environmentally extended multiregional input-output model, with the advantage of applying country specific production factors on products traded internationally and including the full supply chains.
The land types included in the Land Footprint calculation are cropland, grazing land, forest, marine and inland waters and built-up land. The land types are distinguished according to their potential for providing biological products and ecosystem services directly useful to humans. Cropland is the most productive land type, as it is used for growing crops. Forest land provides wood, grazing land provides various plants that grazing livestock feed on, and marine land provides fish. Built-up area indicates the long term demand that humans are placing on bioproductive areas. For more details visit: http://www.footprintnetwork.org.
Our main motivation for this paper was to better understand the role of consumption in causing climate change. We wanted to understand the importance of different consumption categories across different nations. We were surprised to see a nice pattern with a clear relationship between total consumer expenditure and the carbon footprint in different categories. There is no flattening out, no indication that the carbon footprint stabilizes at some point. This is, I’m afraid, bad news. We cannot expect that emissions are reduced as a part of normal development.
Not really. It is standard knowledge of consumer economics that poor households spend a larger fraction of their income on basics, especially food. Historically, we have used much more of our income for food as well. The rapid increase in importance of manufactured products with expenditure is significant. Much of the electronic products and toys we consume today come from Asia and were produced using dirty coal power. We have some responsibility for those emissions, and maybe collectively also the possibility for reducing them. Why not demand that they be produced with clean power – and pay a few percent more?
How is the carbon footprint different from emissions inventories as they are tracked by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change?
National emissions inventories contain Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions that occur on a nation’s territory. Carbon footprints trace the emissions that occur in the production of all goods consumed in a country. If a country’s higher carbon footprint is higher than its territorial GHG emissions inventory, it means that its imports are more require more carbon to produce than its exports. And vice versa. There is a second difference. Carbon Footprints include international transport, in principle ocean freight and aviation. There are not included in the emissions inventories of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (www.unfccc.int).
The Carbon Footprint concept focuses attention on consumption and hence provides insights into the environmental repercussions of the lifestyles of the countries in question. The conventional inventory focuses attention on production and hence on the performance of industry. Both factors are relevant and should be taken into account. However, we want to avoid policies that shift emissions to other countries and account this as a success for the climate. To ensure that policies really reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, their effect on the carbon footprint needs to be calculated.
What can the Carbon Footprint tell us about the achievement of emissions targets under the Kyoto Protocol?
The present calculations are for one year only. We do not have a time series from 1990, which is the reference year for the Kyoto Protocol. Hence we cannot assess how emissions embodied in trade and emissions connected to international transport have changed. The data for such calculations is not available today. We know of only two studies that have looked at changes over time. The most complete study is for the United Kingdom and shows that emissions embodied in imports have increased faster than emissions embodied in exports. The CF of the UK has increased substantially from 1990 to 2004, while the UK government prides itself from being on target achieving the emissions reductions committed under the Kyoto Protocol.
A similar trend can be seen in Norway. Read article here. The rise in emissions embodied in imports of OECD countries is matched by a rise in emissions embodied in exports for China, as Glen Peters and colleagues have shown.
Well, there are technological solutions. First, there is not reason we should need as much energy to heat and cool our apartments. Passive houses for everyone! Second, product policy has been successful in tackling the issue of power use of energy using products, primarily electronics, both during operation and stand-by. However, we are only half-way there, and improvements are still possible. Third, improvements in the fuel efficiency of cars are possible. These measures focus on the direct energy uses of households. The paper clearly shows that indirect energy is more important. If we really want to reduce climate change, it seems like the consumption of goods needs to be limited.
First, the production of goods can be greatly improved, e.g. by energy efficiency in factories, power systems, and transport networks. Second, renewable power should be used more widely in the production. It remains to be shown that the resulting emissions reductions from such steps are sufficient. A shift of diets – away from animal products – would bring significant gains. Also, the turnover of goods consumed by rich households in both developing and industrialized nations seems to be required, even if this is still perceived as a taboo topic.
Consuming less does not necessarily mean voluntary poverty. It can mean more quality, more craftwork, art and personal services. I would enjoy that!
On pollution embodied in trade: