Global outsourcing of carbon emissions 1995–2009: A reassessment

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Abstract

Increasing global production fragmentation allows for outsourcing of emissions, which may undermine national climate policies. Researchers focusing on the gap between consumption-based and production-based emissions have concluded that developed countries are systematically outsourcing emissions to developing countries. However, asymmetries in emissions embodied in trade may emerge due to differences in carbon intensity of energy and production between different countries, and need not be evidence of outsourcing. This study investigates if previous results concerning emission in –and outsourcing of developed and developing countries hold when emission flows are adjusted for technological differences. Two striking results are demonstrated: first, the magnitude of outsourcing is significantly smaller than previous studies have suggested, and, second, there is no clear divide between developing and developed countries. Large developed Anglophone countries (US, UK, Canada and Australia) were increasingly outsourcing emissions between 1995 and 2009 by shifting toward more carbon-intensive goods in their imports and less carbon intensive goods in exports, whereas other developed countries (i.e. the Nordics, advanced Asia and even the aggregate EU-27) maintained a positive emission trade balance. Among major developing countries, China is a major insourcer of emissions, while other emerging economies show no consistent pattern (e.g. India, Turkey and Brazil) or marginal outsourcing (e.g. Indonesia and Mexico). These results contribute to a more nuanced understanding of the impact of international trade on global carbon emissions.

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Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Economic History
  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

Keywords

  • Carbon leakage, Climate mitigation, Emission outsourcing, Input-output analysis, Emissions embodied in trade, Consumption-based accounting
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)228-236
Number of pages9
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Volume92
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes