ARB Research Seminar

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Towards a 'New Deal' in Climate Policy! (A Consumption-Based Approach for Mitigation of GHG Emissions)

Klaus Hubacek, Ph.D., University of Leeds, United Kingdom, Dabo Guan, Ph.D., University of Cambridge, UK, Christopher L. Weber, Ph.D., Carnegie Mellon University, USA, Glen P. Peters, Ph.D., Center for International Climate and Environmental Research - Oslo (CICERO), Norway, and Jan Minx, Ph.D., Stockholm Environment Institute, York, UK

April 08, 2009
Cal EPA Headquarters, 1001 "I" Street, Sacramento, CA



Approaching the post-Kyoto world of 2012 the question arises of what is a fair share of CO2 emission reduction and who is responsible for the emissions in the first place?

Under the current framework provided by the United National Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC) countries submit National Emission Inventories based on emissions within their respective territorial boundary to benchmark reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. This approach has been criticized for excluding international transport, trade and neglecting carbon leakage. Especially industrial countries have been favored under this approach as their structurally changing economies are less affected by ever increasing consumption levels of their populations consuming goods produced elsewhere, mainly in emerging economies such as China, India and Brazil. To address these omissions and imbalances discussions have moved towards using consumption-based approaches in climate policy. This approach has the potential to facilitate reduction of greenhouse gases at the global level through:

1) a better allocation of responsibilities between countries and avoid "carbon leakage."

2) addressing current globalised production and global supply chains especially under the Clean Development Mechanism, as a consumption-based approach can identify where developed countries are importing emissions from, and hence prioritise which sectors in developing countries lead to the most effective global emission reductions.

3) identifying high impact consumption patterns through the ability to link consumption patterns and lifestyles to GHG emissions.

4) allowing countries or other regional entities to draw up GHG emission inventories based on the final consumption of their populations. These inventories would more closely correspond to each country’s actual responsibility for the generation of emissions and also calculate carbon leakage to countries that have not signed up for Kyoto.

Despite these advantages there are a number of issues regarding political willingness and feasibility as well as methodological and data issues in estimating and implementing GHG emissions based on consumer’s responsibility. The current approach used in the UNFCCC is certainly valid and gives highly relevant information on where emissions take place, but there is a lack of understanding of why emissions take place. Without that knowledge, it will be difficult to efficiently reduce emissions at the regional as well as the global level. That is why taking into account consumption-based emissions and further incorporating a consumption-based approach to GHG emissions is so relevant and necessary for the new deal leading to a post-carbon world.

Speaker Biography

Klaus Hubacek, Ph.D., is Associate Professor in Sustainable Development at the School of Earth and Environment at the University of Leeds. Previously, Dr. Hubacek has been teaching at a number of Universities in Central and Eastern Europe and in the United States. Since 1999 he has also been affiliated with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis ( in Austria. Dr. Hubacek has conducted studies for a number of national agencies in Austria, China, Japan, and the United Kingdom, and international institutions such as the European Statistical Office (EUROSTAT), and has been supported by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). An important focus of his research is on conceptualizing and modelling the interaction between economy and environment and developing and modelling scenarios of future change. Dr. Hubacek has published more than 100 articles in books and journals and research reports on a variety of topics such as sustainable consumption and production, material flow analysis, input-output modelling, ecosystems services and land use change and more recently on participatory approaches and mediated modelling.

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