EU28 carbon footprint has stayed constant over the period 1995-2011, material footprint increased by 20%

By | 9th December 2018

Environmental footprints measure pressure indicators such as greenhouse gases (GHG), material, land, or water use in global supply chains [1]. Figures 1, 2, and 3 show the GHG emissions of the global supply chains of the entire final consumption in all 28 EU countries (almost half or them only joined the EU in 2004 or later).

In 2011, the 28 countries together had GHG emissions associated with their global supply chains of ca. 6000 Mt (or 6 Gt) per year, which were ca. 27% larger than their territorial emissions (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1: GHG (‘Carbon’) footprint of the EU28 for the gases CO2, CH4, N2O, and SF6 for the year 2011. Data source: EXIOBASE 3.4 [2]. The left column shows emissions within the geographical boundaries of the EU28 countries (terr = ‚territorial‘), which are broken down into different emitting industrial sectors (ind = ‚industry‘). The second column from the left shows those domestic EU28 emissions, which are part of the supply chains of commodities that are finally consumed outside the EU28 (exp = ‚export‘), like emissions from dairy farming in France, that lead to milk and then cheese that is exported to Canada, for example. The second column from the right shows emissions outside the EU28, which are associated with final consumption within the EU28 via the global supply chain model, the jargon term here is ’emissions embodied in imports’ (imp = ‚import‘), and these are given by product consumed (prod = ‚product‘). Finally, the rightmost column shows the total GHG emissions of the global supply chain of the entire final consumption in the EU28, broken down into product categories. The category ‘final demand sectors direct’ comprises emissions that directly occur at the points of final consumption, mainly by burning fossil fuels in households or public institutions for heating and individual transportation purposes.

 

In 2003, the 28 countries together had GHG emissions associated with their global supply chains of ca. 6400 Mt (or 6.4 Gt) per year, which were ca. 28% larger than their territorial emissions of 5000 Mt CO2-eq/yr (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2: GHG (‘Carbon’) footprint of the EU28 for the gases CO2, CH4, N2O, and SF6 for the year 2003. Data source: EXIOBASE 3.4 [2].

 

In 1995, the 28 countries together had GHG emissions associated with their global supply chains of ca. 6000 Mt (or 6 Gt) per year, which was ca. 19% larger than their territorial emissions of ca. 5000 Mt/yr (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3: GHG (‘Carbon’) footprint of the EU28 for the gases CO2, CH4, N2O, and SF6 for the year 1995. Data source: EXIOBASE 3.4 [2].

In the EU28 as a whole, GHG emissions reductions only have taken place after 2003, and only very modestly (from ca. 5000 to ca. 4700 Mt of CO2-eq/yr). More remarkably, the GHG emissions associated with the final consumption of all EU28 citizens has remained roughly constant over the entire accounting period. That means that to supply all the goods finally consumed in the EU28, the same amount of GHG was emitted globally in 2011 as in 1995. Since overall economic output has been growing during that period, more goods and services can be supplied with that footprint, but the pressure on the climate system remains the same. All major consumption sectors contribute to the GHG footprint, and in light of the climate targets of the EU, the sheer magnitude of emissions suggests that next to cleaning up energy supply and transport, reduction of consumption levels will be necessary.

 

Material use is not directly linked to climate change, but also a major driver of environmental pressure. Figures 4, 5, and 6 show the material use and footprints of the EU28 for 2011, 2003, and 1995, respectively.

Fig. 4: Material footprint of the EU28 for the year 2011. Data source: EXIOBASE 3.4 [2].

Fig. 5: Material footprint of the EU28 for the year 2003. Data source: EXIOBASE 3.4 [2].

Fig. 6: Material footprint of the EU28 for the year 1995. Data source: EXIOBASE 3.4 [2].

While domestic extraction of materials has declined slightly between 2003 and 2011, from ca. 6200 to 6000 Mt/yr, the material footprint of the EU28 has hardly changed and is now at almost 10 Gt/yr of material extracted globally to produce the goods and services finally consumed within the EU28. In 2011, the EU28’s material footprint was 64% larger than domestic extraction, in 1995, that number was at only 32%. During that time, the European industry has off-shored large quantities of material extraction, leading to a local clean-up of the industrial landscapes, but the high level of material use is still needed for supplying the goods and services to the final consumers within the EU. Services, transport, an food, in particular, are dependent on material extraction in their supply chains.

 

Literature:

[1] Tukker A, Bulavskaya T, Giljum S, de Koning A, Lutter S, Simas MS, et al. The Global Resource Footprint of Nations: Carbon, water, land and materials embodied in trade and final consumption calculated with EXIOBASE 2.1. Leiden/Delft/Vienna/Trondheim.; 2014. Available via https://www.researchgate.net/publication/264080789_The_Global_Resource_Footprint_of_Nations_Carbon_water_land_and_materials_embodied_in_trade_and_final_consumption_calculated_with_EXIOBASE_21

[2] Stadler K, Wood R, Bulavskaya T, Södersten C-J, Simas MS, Schmidt S, et al. EXIOBASE 3 – Developing a Time Series of Detailed Environmentally Extended Multi-Regional Input-Output Tables. Journal of Industrial Ecology. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jiec.12715

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