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Greenhouse gas emissions due to national product consumption: from demand and research gaps to addressing key challenges

Windsperger, B., Windsperger, A., Bird, D. N., Schwaiger, H., Jungmeier, G., Nathani, C., Frischknecht, R.
International journal of environmental science and technology 2019 v.16 no.2 pp. 1025-1038
climate change, greenhouse gas emissions, international trade, supply chain, temperature, Austria
In recent years, accounting for greenhouse gas emissions due to national consumption has been of increasing interest, as transformative strategies towards a “low-carbon” economy are inevitable to restrict climate change below 2 °C temperature increase. Thus, every country has to implement effective measures to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions at global level by including impacts abroad due to international trade and avoiding the outsourcing of emissions (“carbon leakage”). The sources and origins of emissions should be known to elaborate appropriate emission reduction strategies, requiring a detailed investigation of products in consumption. This article aims at investigating whether an accounting of emissions due to national consumption of products is considered as important and feasible with current methods, what future research gaps are, and how they can be solved by presenting new methodical approaches in the form of life cycle-based physical supply chains. The results have shown that existing methods are based mainly on monetary data at sectoral level, so that a detailed analysis of the national consumption of products is still missing and global effects as “carbon leakage” cannot be identified. Nevertheless, the demand for calculating consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions at product level was confirmed in various studies, but is currently seen as too complex and time-consuming. Finally, proposed methodical solutions to address existing research gaps were elaborated and applied exemplarily for the mineral sector in Austria and shall further serve as a kind of guidance how an accounting of emissions due to national consumption of products can be put in practice.