Border carbon adjustments: Addressing emissions embodied in trade

Researchers in Leeds (Marco Sakai and John Barrett) examined the effectiveness of border carbon adjustments (BCAs), which have figured prominently as policy instruments to address competitiveness concerns in countries subject to a carbon price. The authors estimated the volume of emissions that could be potentially taxed by BCAs, and particularly focus on the effects of trade provisions and country and sectoral coverage. Their findings indicate that trade provisions can significantly reduce the scope and effectiveness of BCAs. The principle of best available technology and exclusion of electricity reduce the tariffs considerably. The authors argue that BCAs are not optimal policy tools to address carbon leakage concerns, and consequently alternative options should be sought.

Read the paper here.

National climate policy implications of mitigating embodied energy system emissions

Researchers (Kate Scott and John Barrett) at Leeds collaborated with researchers at UCL to investigate changes to the UK energy system if emissions embodied in fuels and energy technologies extracted and manufactured overseas to help meet UK final demand for energy are mitigated in the UK’s territorial target. The model outcomes, which favour an increase in nuclear energy due to cost and deployment assumptions in the energy system model, are discussed in the context of technology barriers, and suggest reductions in end-use energy demand could be a more effective way to meet UK climate targets through energy policy.

Read the full article here.

A multi-method approach for analysing the potential employment impacts of material efficiency

Anne Owen’s paper is featured in the latest issue of Resources, Conservation and Recycling.

Read the full article here.


Material efficiency, reducing the amount of new material inputs per given level of service or output, can improve both the resource efficiency of an economy and reduce demand for energy and GHG emissions intensive materials. It requires a change in the way materials, components and final products are used along the supply chain with associated impacts on employment. Domestic policy support for material efficiency can be hindered by concerns that reducing demand for new materials will impact on employment. A multi-method approach for evaluating the employment impacts of material efficiency strategies across different products and regions is presented. It is applied to two case studies that could reduce demand for new steel in the UK: car clubs and re-using steel sections. Industry interviews supplemented by a literature review reveal how sector labour intensity, product prices and sales volumes might change along the mobility and construction supply chains in the short-term as a consequence of introducing these strategies. A static multi-regional input-output model is used to estimate the immediate direct and indirect supply chain employment impacts of increasing the material efficiency of steel use in the UK. The principal finding of this paper, based on industry expectations of feasible rates of deployment, is that the initial, immediate consequences of these actions would not adversely affect employment prospects in the UK. This is partly because car clubs can stimulate demand for new vehicles and deconstructing rather than demolishing buildings is labour intensive, substituting domestic labour for imported steel. These initial findings should motivate further research on the opportunities for material efficiency.

Explaining value chain differences in MRIO databases through structural path decomposition

Many multiregional input–output (MRIO) databases are used to calculate consumption-based accounts. Results feature in climate policy discussion on emissions reduction responsibilities; yet studies show that outcomes produced by each database differ. This paper compares the emissions associated with value chains from Eora, EXIOBASE, GTAP and WIOD. Structural path analysis identifies the largest paths in each database and the differences in common paths are calculated. For the top 100 value chain paths that contain the largest difference, structural path decomposition is used to identify the contribution each part of the value chain makes towards the difference. The results identify and quantify key flows that are the cause of difference in the databases. From these, we can conclude that key MRIO database construction decisions, such as using the residence or territorial principle for emissions allocation and whether energy spends are reallocated based on physical data, are the major causes of differences.

Read the paper here.

Global impacts of energy demand on the freshwater resources of nations

CIE-MAP researcher Kate Scott published a paper in PNAS on understanding the roles of energy production and international trade in driving pressures on (often scarce) freshwater resources. The authors coupled a trade and hydrological model to examine pressures on freshwater resources associated with energy production across the global economy. While the electric and gas sectors induce freshwater consumption predominantly within countries where demand originates (91% and 81%, respectively), the petroleum sector exhibits a high international footprint (56%). The analysis demonstrates the importance of broadening the discourse on energy policy from greenhouse gas emissions to address issues including freshwater scarcity, the role of international trade, and wider environmental and societal considerations.

Construction sector views on low carbon building materials

A new research paper written by Jannik Giesekam and John Barrett has been published in the October 2015 edition of Building Research and Information. The paper is titled ‘Construction sector views on low carbon building materials‘.

As is the case in a number of countries, the UK construction industry faces the challenge of expanding production whilst making ambitious greenhouse gas emission reductions. Embodied carbon constitutes a growing proportion of whole-life carbon emissions and accounts for a significant share of total UK emissions. A key mitigation strategy is increasing the use of alternative materials with lower embodied carbon. The economic, technical, practical and cultural barriers to the uptake of these alternatives are explored through a survey of construction professionals and interviews with industry leaders. Perceptions of high cost, ineffective allocation of responsibility, industry culture, and the poor availability of product and building-level carbon data and benchmarks constitute significant barriers. Opportunities to overcome these barriers include earlier engagement of professionals along the supply chain, effective use of whole-life costing, and changes to contract and tender documents. A mounting business case exists for addressing embodied carbon, but has yet to be effectively disseminated. In the meantime, the moral convictions of individual clients and practitioners have driven early progress. However, this research underscores the need for new regulatory drivers to complement changing attitudes if embodied carbon is to be established as a mainstream construction industry concern.


Sarah Turner: Eco-Artist and designer through craft-based upcycling

A new research paper written by Kyungeun Sung and Tim Cooper has been published in the March 2015 edition of Craft Research. The article is titled Sarah Turner-Eco Artist And Designer Through Craft Based Upcycling

Abstract: Sarah Turner is an eco-artist and designer who practices craft-based upcycling with waste plastic bottles and cans to create lighting, sculpture and decorative home interior products. Since 1998, her enthusiasm, creativity and good will have allowed her to gain several high-profile client commissions and to win awards from design, innovation and business competitions. The aim of this portrait is to introduce Sarah’s work and shed light on the resources, knowledge and skills involved in her practice and on the barriers to and drivers for her craft-based upcycling. We consider that Sarah’s work could be one of the stepping stones for a shift towards more sustainable craft practice, both in the United Kingdom and beyond. By exploring the right ingredients for craft-based upcycling, barriers liable to be faced and key drivers that stimulate motivation, we hope that this portrait will inspire and attract more designers and makers to embed upcycling in their future practice.

Jonathan Norman co-authors study on UK steel demand

Jonathan Norman was co-author of a study on Options to supply the UK steel demand and meet the CO2 targets presented by André Cabrera Serrenho of the University of Cambridge at the International Society of Industrial Ecology’s 2015 Conference. The work examined how different methods of steel production in the UK would combine with national energy pathways and effect future production and consumption emissions associated with steel. A journal article on this work is currently under review.

Further details:

1 2 3 4