A Framework for Including Consumption-Based Emissions in Austin’s GHG Accounting
Fadelu, Fisayo O.
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CitationFadelu, Fisayo O. 2020. A Framework for Including Consumption-Based Emissions in Austin’s GHG Accounting. Master's thesis, Harvard Extension School.
AbstractCities across the globe are grappling with the costly realities of climate change as the effects of erratic and extreme weather patterns strain local budgets, disrupt economic progress, and adversely impact residents’ quality of life. In response, many have developed community climate action plans that set forth greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) reduction targets, contingent on reliable GHG emissions information for setting policy priorities and for making meaningful progress assessments.
Currently, most cities account for GHG emissions by quantifying only emissions produced within their boundaries. A few others slightly enhance this method of GHG accounting by including outside-boundary emissions related to local community critical infrastructure, such as outside power plant emissions related to local electricity supply. In either case, the GHG accounting is incomplete because it fails to fully account for the community’s real carbon footprint.
This research creates a consumption-based emissions inventory (CBEI) tracking framework for the city of Austin that will substantially enhance the informative value of the city’s existing GHG accounting method, which currently largely focuses on locally-produced emissions. The key objectives of this research were to develop a CBEI framework to make it possible to track the lifecycle of emissions created as a result of goods (with includes food) consumed within the city. Then, to use this framework as a tool for assessing secondary or unintended effects of current policies, as well as evaluating relationships between emissions and select consumer attributes.
Through the lenses of a CBEI framework that provides more visibility into the community’s carbon footprint, this research addressed questions about the relative proportion of direct (in-city) versus indirect (outside-the-city) emissions generated as a result of goods consumed locally within the city of Austin. It will also answer questions about the correlation between household carbon footprint and income, and shed light on economic trends in emissions-intensive goods. I hypothesized that 1) at least half of the GHG emissions created by goods consumed in Austin are created outside the city and, because they are not from local production activities, are not fully captured in the city’s current emissions accounting; 2) that there is a direct correlation between household income and carbon footprint; and 3) that there is a rising trend in demand for carbon intensive goods driven by higher income households.
These hypotheses were tested by using data from a combination of economic and environmental research data repositories to estimate total 2017 direct and indirect goods consumption within the city (in dollars), estimate emissions coefficients for the goods consumed, compute Austin’s consumption-based emissions, and analyze year-over-year demand trends. Also, using census data, I evaluated relationships between emissions information and consumer demographic characteristics.
The results of this research were: a locally-tailored CBEI emissions tracking framework that not only provides a more complete perspective of the community’s real carbon footprint, but also provides policy-makers with clearer direction on where and how to target initiatives, incentives, and strategies to modify behavior in favor of emissions reduction.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37365052
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