A nation’s consumption of goods and services causes various environmental pressures all over the world due to international trade. We use a multiregional input–output model to assess three kinds of environmental footprints for the member states of the European Union. Footprints are indicators that take the consumer responsibility approach to account for the total direct and indirect effects of a product or consumption activity. We quantify the total environmental pressures (greenhouse gas emissions: carbon footprint; appropriation of biologically productive land and water area: land footprint; and freshwater consumption: water footprint) caused by consumption in the EU. We find that the consumption activities by an average EU citizen in 2004 led to 13.3 tCO2e of induced greenhouse gas emissions, appropriation of 2.53 gha (hectares of land with global-average biological productivity), and consumption of 179 m3 of blue water (ground and surface water). By comparison, the global averages were 5.7 tCO2e, 1.23 gha, and 163 m3 blue water, respectively. Overall, the EU displaced all three types of environmental pressures to the rest of the world, through imports of products with embodied pressures. Looking at intra-EU displacements only, the UK was the most important displacer overall, while the largest net exporters of embodied environmental pressures were Poland (greenhouse gases), France (land), and Spain (freshwater).

Kjartan Steen-Olsen, Jan Weinzettel, Gemma Cranston, A. Ertug Ercin, and Edgar G. Hertwich