Characterization of Economic Requirements for a “Carbon-Debt-Free Country”

In recent years, greenhouse gas emission controls that incorporate the supply chains of products and services, thereby emphasizing the role of consumers rather than producers, have been drawing increasing attention. A country’s consumption-based emissions, including those due to global supply chains, reflect the total emissions on which the national economy relies. To design effective emissions control strategies there is therefore an urgent need for countries to elucidate the structural relationship between their domestic economy and emissions occurring through global supply chains. Here we consider the structural characteristics of consumption-based emissions in Japan, which in 2005 totaled 1675 Mt CO2eq. Outside the country the Japanese economy generated global emissions of 541 Mt CO2eq, 35.7% of which were UNFCCC Annex I emissions and 64.3% were non-Annex I and other emissions. This figure of 64.3% reveals that Japan is actually relying to a considerable degree on emissions that are subject to no international obligations. We identify key economic contributors to consumption-based emissions at the commodity level and specify items of household expenditure that are effective options for both financial savings and emissions reduction. We then discuss the importance of emissions control for evolving toward a “carbon-debt-free country”.