News Stories on Carbon Footprint of Nations

A good week has gone since the release of the website and the online version of our article.

A number of news outlets picked up the story, including the venerable Neue Züricher Zeitung (Switzerland)  and the tabloid VG (Norway). It was really interesting to discuss our  research with numerous journalists and to see what they picked up. Here  is some highlights.

  • Consumption as key driver for carbon footprints: Basically all  stories emphasize the importance of goods for personal and national  carbon footprints. ETH Life and pressetexte show  ladies shopping. (Ironically, men usually have higher carbon footprints  and are traditionally responsible for shopping high-impact items.) The  news stories also point out that increased consumption leads to  increased carbon footprints and that this tendency does not level off  even at high expenditure levels. There is no “Kuznets curve” for  carbon footprints. This message is very much part of our intention to  alert the world to the fact that, even when consumed goods or services  do not require energy for their consumption, they cause greenhouse gas  emissions during their production and consumption.
  • The outsourcing of carbon footprints: The news stories also focus on  the contribution of countries to the climate problem and on how this  contribution changes if we take emission embodied in trade into account (1,2).  Our analysis shows that for most OECD countries, the emissions caused  by the production of imports are clearly higher than that caused by the  production of exports. A carbon footprint accounting would have clear  implications for the assignment of responsibility for future emissions  reduction. In the interviews, I have emphasized the importance of using  carbon footprints as a complementary indicator to the conventional  national emissions inventories in international climate policy. We want  to ensure that measures that are taking to not lead increases in  emissions somewhere else. I would also argue that the development of the  national carbon footprint over time is much more relevant for the  success of climate policies than the development of national emissions.
  • Some stories have also picked up on the relevance of the results for  integrated product policy. Our study has focused on the importance of  eight different consumption categories. Integrated product policy (IPP)has  been successfully applied by the EU to influence the content of  electronic products, reducing toxic compounds, and to reduce energy  consumption of energy using products. Now the EU is interested in  extending product policy to also reduce energy use in the manufacturing  of the products. Our study will hopefully help the EU to target its  policy on the largest problems.