Jakob, M., Ward, H., Steckel, J.

Sharing responsibility for trade-related emissions based on economic benefits

in Global Environmental Change, 28.12.2020

Peer Review , Climate and Development

How to share responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions between consumers and producers is a highly sensitive question in international climate policy negotiations. Traditional ‘Production-Based Accounting’ (PBA), which assigns responisibility to the region where emissions are released, has frequently been challenged by ‘Consumption-Based Accounting’ (CBA) schemes that suggest that greenhouse gas emissions generated to produce traded goods and services should be attributed to their final consumers. PBA and CBA both lack a sound foundation in economic theory as they do not consider the economic benefits accruing to producers or consumers if carbon emissions do not carry a price that reflects their social costs. We build on well-established economic theory to derive how to share responsibility for trade-related emissions between producers and consumers and apply this novel approach for the most prominent bilateral trade relationships using multi-regional input–output data. We propose an ‘Economic Benefit Shared Responsibility’ (EBSR) scheme, in which China is attributed significantly higher responsibility for emissions than in CBA, while lower emissions and responsibility are attributed to both the US and the EU.