Outsourcing pollution


global carbon emission


In the U.S. and Europe, 21 and 23 percent of greenhouse gases, respectively, are generated through industrial production; in China, the figure is about double that.

The World Bank estimates that at least a quarter of China’s emissions are tied to exports to the U.S. and Europe.

Guangzhou in China, well-known for its steel production, and Tirupur in India, where we have textile industry, are for example producing greenhouse gases on behalf of our western post-industrial society. In the same way many heavy-polluted industries fled overseas in the wake of global trade agreements.

Today we can see that in affluent areas there’s more spending and more income generated to purchase things that are not made there. Many of the things we buy like cars, appliances, steel to built skyscrapers etc come with a high greenhouse gas load. Who is responsible for those emissions?

More interesting in this case is to include consumption as part of the greenhouse gas accounting.

A comparison between production and consumption based emissions showed that cities like San Francisco and New York City where there is little industry, the production emissions per household are between 1 and 5 tons while a very different result can be seen for consumption based accounting with emissions from 4 to 10 tons of carbon dioxide per household. We need to start to recognize the environmental impact of  consumption and the effect it has on our environment.

At the upcoming climate talks in Paris, the Compact of Mayors will attempt to redefine exactly what being a “green city” means and how cities should work to be greener.

Read more about this interesting topic in Newsweek.


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