Whose emissions are they anyway?

Original Article Here.

Dr Marco Sakai, Dr Kate Scott and Prof John Barrett of the CIE-MAP Centre argue that measuring carbon emissions by consumption rather than production would more accurately and fairly allocate responsibility for meeting climate change targets.

Measuring emissions

As the COP22 UN Climate Change conference drew to a close in Morocco last week, many of the world’s nations were reinforcing their commitment to mitigating climate change and attempting to meet global emissions targets. To honour these pledges, countries must have accurate ways of measuring what their emissions are and how they are decreasing or increasing. Moreover, the question of who is ultimately responsible for the emissions (regardless of where they happen geographically) has continued to be a contested issue that has proved difficult to bring into the negotiations.

http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html

This is a complex technical and political issue. The question of what is the most appropriate means of measuring emissions has been debated for as long as there have been targets. While the UN community of nations recognises the common responsibility to address climate change, there is of course a huge variety in the extent and ability to cut emissions in different countries across the world. The issue of whether developing nations should be expected to reduce emissions at the same rate as developed nations – as the former strive to ‘catch up’ – is also a major debate. As the extent of action needed to reduce climate change has become apparent, the Paris Agreement has broadened the scope by including developing nations. Thus, all nations are expected to address their emissions irrespective of country classifications.

This area is a major focus of the Centre for Industrial Energy, Materials and Products (CIE-MAP). In a recent paper, they have explored the possibilities of changing the way emissions are accounted for.

Production-based vs consumption-based accounting

Internationally, responsibility for reducing greenhouse gas emissions is normally measured according to a production-based (PB) accounting approach. This method focusses on greenhouse gases emitted within the borders of a particular country. However, this approach does not account for emissions created by demand for products from other countries. For example, if a shipment of plastic toys is produced in China to meet demand in the UK, the environmental impact of the production and shipping process is created by UK importers and consumers. So with PB accounting some of the environmental impact of the consumer nation can be hidden from the figures.

Given the complexity of the global economy, researchers argue that other methods must be explored. With consumption-based (CB) accounting all the emissions that occurred in the course of production and distribution to the final consumers of goods and services are considered, and would be allocated to the consumer country.

The future of carbon accounting?

Many experts favour a switch to CB accounting, as it would change the dynamics of how we look at the problem and shift accountability. With 20-25% of overall CO2 emissions created from the production of internationally traded products, more responsibility would be placed on the importers (consumers) than the exporters. As developed countries tend to import more and developing countries export more, the onus would be placed on the developed nations to reduce the emissions created by their demand for products from exporters. This would in turn mean that the importing countries would need to address their policies regarding reducing consumer demand and reducing internal emissions to offset the higher burden. They may also seek to influence the production and transportation processes of their suppliers in the developing world.

There are arguments for and against switching to CB accounting (or creating a blend of different methods) and it is a highly complicated and technical issue – which is covered in much more detail in our paper. But in this brief overview we can see that in the global effort to mitigate climate change, it is important to locate the root causes of CO2 emissions in order to address the problem most effectively. We conclude that a complete redesign of the international climate change regime in favour of CB accounting seems unlikely at this stage. Yet, we believe that mandatory reporting of CB emissions should be encouraged. This would allow the international community to design effective policies and tools to mitigate emissions embodied in trade.

Further reading

Afionis, S., Sakai, M., Scott, K., Barrett, J. and Gouldson, A. (2016) Consumption-based carbon accounting: does it have a future? WIRE Climate Change Journal

Dr Marco Sakai, Dr Kate Scott and Prof John Barrett are based at the Centre for Industrial Energy, Materials and Products (CIE-MAP) at the School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds. CIE-MAP is one of six RCUK End Use Energy Demand Centres

Photo credit: By Wmeinhart [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

CIE-MAP research informs Government Industrial Strategy

On October 27th CIEMAP took a lead role at an event bringing together industry, trade associations, academics, and policy stakeholders to feed into BEIS’s industrial strategy.

This event – held at the BEIS conference centre – aimed to highlight the necessity of building the circular economy (reuse, recycle, repair, durability) into the UK’s future industrial plans in order to meet COP21 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions targets. This will be a challenging process but also offers the opportunity for the UK to become a world leader in new industrial practices.

The work will feed into the practical plans needed to enact the findings of the 2050 Industrial Roadmaps, (which were published in 2015 and gave recommendations for reducing GHG targets in the eight most energy intensive industries in the UK (iron and steel; chemicals; oil refining; food and drink; pulp and paper; cement; glass; ceramics)

The contributors

The delegates heard from Niall Mackenzie, Director of Infrastructure and Materials (BEIS) who confirmed that outcomes of the conference would be fed into a green paper for the Autumn statement (23/11/16) and a white paper for next year’s budget laying out the government’s industrial strategy. The group also heard the positions of BEIS and Defra on the Industrial Roadmaps and the circular economy from Charlie Lewis, Head of Industrial Decarbonisation and Energy Efficiency (BEIS), and Arjan Geveke, Assistant Director of Energy Policy (BEIS).

The CIE-MAP presentation focused on the need to build the circular economy into energy intensive industries and the opportunities it provides. CIE-MAP argues that more emphasis needs to be placed on looking across the whole supply chain to lifecycle analysis, product design, and recycling products and materials.

The big questions

The remainder of the day was spent with the different stakeholders – including Prof Geoff Hammond of the Bath CIE-MAP team – discussing the big questions facing energy intensive industries in relation to the circular economy:

1) how lifecycle thinking in energy intensive industries can be accelerated and embedded

2) how products can be designed to be more durable and recyclable

3) how management can structure businesses to realise energy and material efficiency

4) how these industries can work with government to reduce GHG emissions in an increasingly global supply chain

5) how government can help these industries move up the value chain.

The event is an example of the EUED Centres’ work with government and industry colleagues to use research to help build practical solutions to major UK and global energy issues.

NTU announce forthcoming PLATE Seminar 2016

Tuesday 6 December, Newton Building, Nottingham Trent University, City Campus

We are delighted to announce a forthcoming PLATE (Product Lifetimes and the Environment) seminar. This event will give you the opportunity to find out about the latest developments in policy and practice on product lifetimes, planned obsolescence, reuse, and repair.

The aim of the event is to discuss innovative and ground breaking approaches to product longevity, set within the policy and civil context of the UK and EU. Our excellent keynote speakers include an entrepreneur, a representative from the European Commission and two leading researchers:

  • Tara Button (BuyMeOnce.com)
  • Dr Carlos Montalvo (TNO, Netherlands)
  • Dr Ines Oehme (Federal Environment Agency, Germany)
  • Ferenc Pekár (DG Environment)

The seminar will build on the success of the first PLATE Conference, held at NTU in 2015, and announce plans for the second international PLATE Conference, which will take place in November 2017.

Download a copy of the programme.

This seminar is open to the public, staff and students. There is a booking fee associated with this seminar:

  • £50 (including VAT): Staff and general public.
  • £25 (including VAT): Student (Student ID will be required on arrival at event).

Visit the NTU Online Store to make your booking using either a credit or debit card.

If you have an enquiry about this event, please email us or call Dr Christine Cole on +44 (0)115 848 6011.

Kyungeun Sung attends Research on Sustainable Development Summer School

The PhD Research on Sustainable Development Summer School was held at the University of Basel in Basel, Switzerland from the 18th to the 22nd of July.

It was organised by Dr. Marius Christen, Prof. Dr. Frank Krysiak, Prof. Dr. Patricia Holm, and Prof. Dr. Paul Burger.

Presentations were given by Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Buchholz from the University of Resensburg in economics, Prof. Dr. Konrad Steffen from Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL in natural sciences, and Prof. Dr. Susan Baker from Cardiff University in social sciences.

Kyungeun Sung presented her PhD research on Sustainable production and consumption by upcycling: Understanding and scaling up niche environmentally significant behaviour and contributed to the discussions on various conceptions of sustainability and sustainable development in different disciplines.

CIE-MAP participates in Exergy Economics Workshop 2016

Over 40 economists, engineers and social scientists converged last week on the sunny University of Sussex campus for the second International Exergy Economics Workshop. Organised by the Centre on Innovation and Energy Demand (CIED) and the Centre for Industrial Energy, Materials and Products (CIE-MAP), the workshop was a chance for researchers to come together to share knowledge, discuss progress, and initiate future research collaborations in exergy economics.

Read Jack Miller’s full blog here.

Anne Owen attends Input-Output conference in Seoul, Korea

The 24th International Input-Output Conference was held at the Yonsei University in Seoul, South Korea this year between the 4th and 8th of July.

Yonsei University in Seoul:

IO

Input-output is a macro-economic technique used by CIEMAP researchers to calculate the consumption-based account of the UK and it allows us to understand the effect of demand on energy and materials use. This year, Anne presented two research papers, based on CIEMAP research. The first explored how the UK’s energy footprint differs when we use different system boundaries to describe the energy impact of industries. Assigning the energy information to the extraction industries may be a better technique for research on energy security. However, to explore energy efficiency and energy substitution policy, energy should be assigned to the industries where it is ultimately used. Anne’s second paper presented a technique to explore the food, energy water nexus by comparing product supply-chains. Anne identified the common supply chains which were large within the biomass, energy and water consumption-based accounts and also determined the value to the world economy and the number of jobs that were dependent on these chains. Both papers were received well and Anne has a number of ideas as to how to further improve the research.

Anne at the conference venue:

anne

The input-output conference can be quite technical in nature, but these year featured a number of presentations themed around using the technique to explore societal and political research questions. For example, Prof. Geoff Hewings posed the question ‘What about the people in input-output?’ and challenged the community to further explore the role of consumption in IO calculations. He stated that households are diverse in nature and this needs to be captured in our work. For example, the spending patterns will differ vastly between older and younger households and this differing type of demand drives the need for jobs in different sectors. Keynote speaker Prof. Klaus Hubacek explored this theme further by demonstrating how expenditure profiles of differing household groups in Chicago can be used to calculate the carbon footprint of neighbourhoods. Brexit was a hot topic of conversation throughout the conference and Prof. Bart Los introduced the newest version of the World Input-Output Database (WIOD), which operates at NUTS2 level of administrative unit, by demonstrating that the regions of the UK that were most dependent on European trade were also those that voted to leave!

Chart 1 - Eurozone non performing

World Input-Output Database, University of Groningen, http://www.wiod.org/, 2010 data; Nick Vivyan and Chris Hanretty, ‘Estimating Constituency Opinion’, http://constituencyopinion.org.uk/data/, 2014 data

 

Seoul is a modern and exciting city and the contrast between the old and new is striking at times. Gyeongbokgung Palace gate with city in background:

Palace

Roof detail at the Gyeongbokgung Palace:

palace2

National Museum:

national museum

Next year the conference venue is Atlantic City, USA, which promises to be a very different and interesting experience!

Kate Scott wins Piers Sellers Prize for Climate Change Research

The first winners of the Piers Sellers Prizes for outstanding research in climate science have been announced.

In honour of Dr Sellers’ work as a renowned climate scientist and in raising public awareness of global warming, the Priestley Centre has created two annual prizes in his name to recognise outstanding research in the field.

The Piers Sellers Prize for ‘Exceptional PhD Research’ is designed to reward and encourage current University of Leeds PhD students for undertaking excellent research to better understand or address climate change. The second prize, for ‘World leading contribution to solution-focused climate research’, is open to all researchers world-wide at any stage of their career.

The first winner of the Piers Sellers Prize for ‘Exceptional PhD Research’ is Kate Scott from the University’s School of Earth and Environment.

In her research, Scott seeks to understand how environmental policies, consumption-side measures and industrial policies can be used to best effect in mitigating climate change. Her research has been integrated into assessments of evidence by the Committee on Climate Change (an independent body that reports to Parliament on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions) and has been presented to various Government departments.

The Piers Sellers Prize for ‘World leading contribution to solution-focused climate research’ is awarded to Dr Joeri Rogelj, a research scholar at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA), Austria. Both Prizes were awarded at the official launch of the Priestley Centre by Sir Alan Langlands.

Dr Rogelj’s research examines workable mitigation solutions and the effects of staying below different global temperature targets.  He was the only researcher before the United Nation’s climate change talks held in Paris in late 2015 – the 21st Conference of the Parties (COP21) conference – to be actively publishing on how to limit global temperature rise to 1.5°C.  His work played a central role in forming the evidence base behind the Paris Agreement.

Read more about the Piers Sellers Prizes.

CIE-MAP Stakeholder Workshop at the RSA

On Thursday 12th May CIE-MAP hosted a Stakeholder Workshop at the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce).

This event was attended by a broad range of guests, including researchers, policy makers, government officials, and heads of industry.

The event was comprised of a series of presentations and panel discussions on a variety of topics, including:

  • Industrial Energy and Resource Consumption
  • Material Efficiency Strategies and New Business Opportunities
  • The role of the Construction Sector in delivering Material Efficiency
  • The role of the public in achieving Material Efficiency Strategies

View the presentations here:

John Barrett – Introduction to CIE-MAP

Geoff Hammond – Industrial Decarbonisation Opportunities

Kate Scott – The Contribution of Resource Consumption to the 5th Carbon Budget

Tim Cooper – How can material efficiency strategies be adopted by industry and create new business opportunities

Jannik Giesekam – What is the role of the construction sector and the National Infrastructure Plan in delivering material efficiency

Nick Pidgeon – Opportunities and Barriers to Achieving Transitions in UK Energy and Materials Use The Role of Publics, Society and Decision-Makers

You can also visit EUED’s storify site here for a full run through of the day.

Kyungeun Sung leads Upcycling Practitioners’ Workshop

Kyungeun Sung organised the upcycling practitioners’ workshop with 12 practitioners at SOAS University of London on 9th of March. Professor Rebecca Earley from the University of the Arts London and Jamie Billing from Plymouth College of Art gave keynote speeches.

See the workshop presentation and stimuli here.

Professor Tim Cooper contributes to article on product lifetimes

Professor Tim Cooper contributed to an article in the Daily Mail about product lifetimes and planned obsolescence. Read the article here:

Here’s proof today’s gadgets really are DESIGNED to go wrong

Lorraine Fisher, Daily Mail, Tuesday 19th April

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