In order to maintain a climate-safe future, the world needs to stay within the established greenhouse gas (GHG) budgets and limit global warming to internationally agreed upon 1.5 °C. But how do we do this exactly?
In a report by c40 cities and Arup, The Future of Urban Consumption on a 1.5 °C World, reducing consumption-based emissions is highlighted as a key factor in making sure that we stay within the specified targets. Right now, consumption-based emissions account for 10% of global GHGs.
Why do we need to act?
By just allowing the world to warm up uncontrollably, we are putting ourselves in greater vulnerability to extreme climate conditions such as heatwaves, food insecurity, flooding, and sea-level rise — just to name a few.
We need to act now not only to protect the environment and ourselves but also the future generation who will definitely be suffering the consequences of our present actions. One way we can do this is by measuring and tracking our consumption-based emissions.
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Why is it important to measure consumption-based emissions?
Right now, many cities adopt a production-based approach in keeping track of emissions. While this has helped in encouraging mitigation efforts in activities within the city, it still severely underplays the impact cities have on emissions.
A production-based approach will take into account the emissions generated within the city. However, according to C40 and Arup, 85% of the emissions in C40 member cities are imported from elsewhere.
A consumption-based approach in measuring emissions also takes into account production-based emissions. In addition to this, it subtracts GHG emissions of exported goods and services and adds GHG emissions of imported goods and services. This way, the impact of consumers and businesses in the global emissions are also well accounted for.
What cities can do
By adopting a consumption-based approach in tracking emissions, the responsibility of reducing emissions is brought down to us consumers and businesses as well. While the production end of the supply chain definitely has a large role in reducing emissions, protecting our world is our collective responsibility.
In the report, C40 and Arup identified six sectors where a change in consumption patterns will significantly help in cutting down on emissions:
Some transformative steps cited in the report include material efficiency, reduced consumption, and adoption of low-carbon alternatives.
Needless to say, these interventions demand huge changes in consumption patterns and in the structure of our supply chains. With this, the cooperation of all relevant actors within the city is much needed.
The consumption-based approach will bring light to just how large the impact cities have when it comes to reducing emissions. This large impact need not be negative, though.
With proactive and future-oriented leaders, businessmen, and citizens, the large impact cities have can drive change that works out for the better.