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Harry Wilting and Kees Vringer

Economic Systems Research, 2009, vol. 21, issue 3, 291-310

Abstract: National policies for reducing environmental pressures stemming from emissions and the use of natural resources usually adopt a producer approach, i.e. the legislation refers to pressures occurring within the territorial boundaries of a country. An alternative approach to environmental accounting is the consumer approach, which includes environmental pressures associated with imports for domestic consumption, wherever these pressures occur. The carbon footprint, for example, is such an approach, in which CO2 or greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are considered from a consumer's perspective. The consumer approach may offer new ways for policies to reduce pressures, and therefore it would be interesting to adopt this perspective in national environmental policy-making and international negotiations. To gain insight into the differences between the approaches, this paper discusses the concepts of both, showing the results of an empirical analysis and going into the application of the two different perspectives in (international) environmental policies. Due to international trade, the environmental pressures accounted for in a producer's and a consumer's perspective are usually not the same for a country. This paper presents a worldwide overview, comparing the outcomes for the two approaches with regard to GHG emissions and land use, for 12 world regions. Furthermore, for GHG emissions, a quantitative comparison was made between 87 countries and regions covering the world. Consumption-related GHG emissions and land use per capita were calculated with a full multi-regional input-output (MRIO) model. MRIO analysis is an attractive method for footprint analyses in an international context. The research shows that, for most developed countries, GHG emissions and land use are higher in the consumer approach than in the producer approach. For most developing countries, the opposite is true. Before applying national targets to the consumer approach - for instance, in climate policies - further improvements and standardisation of methodology and data will be necessary.

Keywords: Footprint analysis; Multi-region input-output analysis; Environmental accounting; Environmental policy; Responsibility (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2009
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