A better way to assign responsibility for carbon emissions

Crawford School of Public Policy

Event details


Date & time

Monday 22 October 2012


Acton Lecture Theatre, #132 JG Crawford Building, ANU


Professor Astrid Kander, Lund University


Ms Yanhong Ouyang
6125 4387

Additional links

This presentation will highlight one drawback of the currently very popular consumption based emission estimates for assessing the impact of international trade on carbon dioxide emissions in individual countries. The MRIO (multi regional input-output) method and the SRIO (single regional input-output) method with actual technologies are similar in that they aim at allocating all global CO2 emissions to the country of consumption of the commodities rather than to the producer country. However, both methods have one severe drawback when they are used for assessing responsibility for global emissions; i.e., they neglect the NEGA-emissions, which are the saved emissions in developing countries due to importing goods produced using cleaner technologies in developed countries.

If the amount of CO2 emissions of a country’s consumption, adjusted for international trade, is the key question, then the appropriate method should be the MRIO method (or the SRIO with actual technologies), adjusted for the NEGA-emissions possibly incurred. It is suggested that this revised method could also result in all countries’ emissions summing up to actual global emissions. This new way of measuring responsibility would increase the legitimacy of the calculations as a measure of responsibility for emissions because both the consumption levels and patterns and the production technologies and energy systems of all nations would be taken into account.

Professor Astrid Kander is an economic historian working on growth, energy and environmental issues over several centuries as well as contemporary energy and climate change issues. She set the example for how to conduct quantitative historical studies of energy use in her Swedish case study, which has been followed up by several other scholars for other European countries, within a network (LEG) that she has coordinated since 2003. Among other findings, her research has shown that: In the long run (200 years) energy intensity declines, rather than following an inverted U shape path as many have suggested; the transition to a service economy has had a modest effect on environmental impacts – increasing efficiency in the traditional branches of industry has been more important; and declining energy intensity in developed countries was not caused by international trade allowing the offshoring of pollution intensive activities.

Light lunch will be provided prior to the seminar.

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