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.