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The carbon footprint of UK households 1990-2004: A socio-economically disaggregated, quasi-multi-regional input-output model

  • Druckman, Angela
  • Jackson, Tim
Registered author(s):

    This paper presents a socio-economically disaggregated framework for attributing CO2 emissions to people's high level functional needs. Based around a quasi-multi-regional input-output (QMRIO) model, the study, in theory, takes into account all CO2 emissions that arise from energy used in production of goods and services to satisfy UK household demand, whether the emissions occur in the UK or abroad. Results show that CO2 emissions attributable to households were 15% above 1990 levels in 2004, and that although absolute decoupling occurred between household expenditure and CO2 during the UK's switch from coal to gas in the early 1990s, since then only slight relative decoupling is evident. The proportion of CO2 that arises outside UK borders in support of UK consumption is rising, and reducing these emissions is particularly problematic in a global trading system. Investigation into the carbon footprint of different segments of the UK population shows wide variation: the segment with the highest carbon footprint emits 64% more CO2 than the segment with the lowest. Results show that recreation and leisure are responsible for over one quarter of CO2 emissions in a typical UK household in 2004. We conclude that expanding lifestyle aspirations are significant factors in driving household CO2 emissions, but the study also emphasizes that attention must be paid to the infrastructures and institutions that result in considerable amounts of CO2 being locked up in basic household activities through which people meet their everyday needs for subsistence, protection, and communication with family and friends. The findings highlight the sheer scale of the challenge facing UK policy-makers, and suggest that policies should be targeted towards segments of society responsible for the highest carbon footprints.

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    Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Ecological Economics.

    Volume (Year): 68 (2009)
    Issue (Month): 7 (May)
    Pages: 2066-2077

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    Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:68:y:2009:i:7:p:2066-2077
    Contact details of provider: Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/ecolecon

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    1. Bin, Shui & Dowlatabadi, Hadi, 2005. "Consumer lifestyle approach to US energy use and the related CO2 emissions," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(2), pages 197-208, January.
    2. Sorrell, Steve & Dimitropoulos, John, 2008. "The rebound effect: Microeconomic definitions, limitations and extensions," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(3), pages 636-649, April.
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    4. Bastianoni, Simone & Pulselli, Federico Maria & Tiezzi, Enzo, 2004. "The problem of assigning responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(3), pages 253-257, July.
    5. McClements, L. D., 1977. "Equivalence scales for children," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 191-210, October.
    6. Munksgaard, Jesper & Pedersen, Klaus Alsted, 2001. "CO2 accounts for open economies: producer or consumer responsibility?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 29(4), pages 327-334, March.
    7. Angela Druckman & T. Jackson & E. Papathanasopoulou & P. Bradley, . "Attributing Carbon Emissions to Functional Household Needs: a Pilot Framework For the UK," Regional and Urban Modeling 283600026, EcoMod.
    8. Nadim Ahmad & Andrew Wyckoff, 2003. "Carbon Dioxide Emissions Embodied in International Trade of Goods," OECD Science, Technology and Industry Working Papers 2003/15, OECD Publishing.
    9. Jackson, Tim & Papathanasopoulou, Eleni, 2008. "Luxury or 'lock-in'? An exploration of unsustainable consumption in the UK: 1968 to 2000," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(1-2), pages 80-95, December.
    10. Uwe Götze, 2008. "Editorial," Metrika, Springer, vol. 19(1), pages 1-6, May.
    11. Jackson, Tim & Marks, Nic, 1999. "Consumption, sustainable welfare and human needs--with reference to UK expenditure patterns between 1954 and 1994," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 28(3), pages 421-441, March.
    12. Turner, Karen & Lenzen, Manfred & Wiedmann, Thomas & Barrett, John, 2007. "Examining the global environmental impact of regional consumption activities -- Part 1: A technical note on combining input-output and ecological footprint analysis," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 62(1), pages 37-44, April.
    13. Druckman, A. & Jackson, T., 2008. "Measuring resource inequalities: The concepts and methodology for an area-based Gini coefficient," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 65(2), pages 242-252, April.
    14. Berkhout, Peter H. G. & Muskens, Jos C. & W. Velthuijsen, Jan, 2000. "Defining the rebound effect," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 28(6-7), pages 425-432, June.
    15. Weber, Christopher L. & Matthews, H. Scott, 2008. "Quantifying the global and distributional aspects of American household carbon footprint," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 66(2-3), pages 379-391, June.
    16. Druckman, A. & Jackson, T., 2008. "Household energy consumption in the UK: A highly geographically and socio-economically disaggregated model," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(8), pages 3167-3182, August.
    17. Dan Vickers & Phil Rees, 2007. "Creating the UK National Statistics 2001 output area classification," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 170(2), pages 379-403.
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