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Carbon emission mitigation by Consumption-based Accounting and Policy

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Policies for carbon emissions mitigation

An EU team has studied and helped to improve the EU’s climate policies. The study focused on reducing greenhouse gas emissions by altering consumer demand, concluding that trade and growing affluence are important drivers of emissions increases.

Climate Change and Environment
Society

Climate change policies vary in strength and approach depending on the national or regional contexts in which the policies were drafted. The policies usually target manufacturing, yet consumption is a growing factor in greenhouse gas emissions. The EU-funded CARBON CAP (Carbon emission mitigation by consumption-based accounting and policy) project investigated European climate change policies. The consortium helped develop innovative policies by improving shared knowledge about carbon emissions. Team members developed more effective guidelines intended to achieve EU climate objectives. Such policies target the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by changing consumer demand. Progress towards more balanced policies required overcoming several knowledge gaps, via processes of interactive learning between the project team and key stakeholders. The consortium also devised a roadmap for transitioning to a low-carbon economy by 2050. Researchers analysed various kinds of changes projected under such policies. The team concluded that trade is an important driver of global greenhouse gas emissions growth, yet not as important as growth in affluence and industrial efficiency. However, the displacement of industries from western countries in conjunction with the rise in imports does contribute to emissions growth, especially in combustion. The growth in affluence reduces gains in carbon and energy efficiency. CARBON CAP also analysed and ranked more than 30 policy instruments, and detailed 3 main advantages of introducing policies in a portfolio. A key finding was that consumer choice is difficult to influence when consumers have access to high- and low-carbon goods meeting the same need. Results indicated that policies changing the characteristics of products available to consumers (e.g. minimum standards) should have priority. The team further concluded that policies affecting consumer choices among market products could be applied at a later stage. A greenhouse gas reduction of around 50 % of current EU emissions could be possible. Researchers determined that options with the highest potential reductions included food, building and transportation, and that policies should therefore target such categories. Project modelling suggested the potential of new policies to substantially reduce European greenhouse gas emissions, especially in terms of building and transportation.

Keywords

Carbon emissions, greenhouse gas, climate change policies, consumption, CARBON CAP

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