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The UK’s Emissions and Employment Footprints: Exploring the Trade-Offs

Marco Sakai (), Anne Owen () and John Barrett ()
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Marco Sakai: Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
Anne Owen: Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
John Barrett: Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK

Sustainability, 2017, vol. 9, issue 7, 1-19

Abstract: During the last decades, the UK economy has increasingly relied on foreign markets to fulfil its material needs, becoming a net importer of both emissions and employment. While the emissions footprint reflects the pressure that consumption exerts on the planet’s climate, the labour footprint represents the employment that is created across the globe associated with the demand for products and services. This paper has a two-fold objective. First, it focuses on analysing the behaviour over time, drivers, and sectoral and regional composition of both UK’s footprints. Second, it explores the relationship between both measures by estimating the elasticity between the growth of emissions and employment embodied in imports. The results show that around half of the emissions associated with UK consumption were generated outside its borders, while only 40% of total employment was domestic. This has important policy implications. Reducing UK’s imports can contribute to cut both its footprints, generating less emissions abroad and more employment opportunities within. However, cutting imports is challenging, since this would require a lengthy and difficult process of structural transformation. The UK could contribute to curb emissions outside its borders, while safeguarding development overseas, by offering increased support to emission-intensive trade partners in the form of technology transfer and financial aid.

Keywords: consumption-based emissions; employment; international trade; emissions footprint; labour footprint (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: Q Q0 Q2 Q3 Q5 Q56 O13 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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