Much of our collective carbon footprint is tied directly to our consumer behavior.
A new understanding of the link between consumption patterns and climate change is emerging in local climate action planning. In their efforts to reduce local greenhouse gas emissions, cities typically have focused on emissions from the direct and indirect use of fossil fuels (e.g. transportation, building heat, electricity). But the goods and services communities consume can represent an equal amount of embedded carbon. Analysis of consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions can shine a light on keys aspects of consumption as a driver of climate change and highlight new opportunities to reduce carbon emissions.
The Stockholm Environment Institute has created a guide for local governments to help manage their consumption-based emissions by:
- Conducting consumption-based emissions inventories (CBEI)
- Translating CBEI into a strategy for reducing emissions
- Integrating this into a comprehensive climate action plan
Sustainable consumption presents a strategic opportunity for North American cities to reduce their GHG emissions and mitigate local impacts of climate change.
Consumption-based GHG emissions reflect the climate impact of goods, food, services and energy that communities consume. While emissions associated with transportation, building heat and electricity are declining, emissions related to overall consumption continue to increase, overriding these hard-earned gains (see example below). Changes in consumption can make an important, and necessary, contribution to fighting climate change.
This short video explains the significance of consumption-based emissions in a globalized economy:
Cities are bringing this new understanding into their climate action efforts by:
- Using new accounting methods to estimate the total global emissions of meeting local consumer demand, including those associated with goods/food produced outside the community;
- Including specific actions in their Climate Action Plans to reduce consumption-related emissions;
- Considering new community greenhouse reduction goals that reflect this broader set of global emissions tied to local consumption.
Make consumption part of your Climate Action Plan: see the new CBEI Guidebook for examples of how to address consumption in your local greenhouse gas emissions inventories and related climate action plans.