Emissions we don’t count but should: consumption-based emissions

Amazon prime truckMany communities have developed sector-based greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories that track emissions in categories such as transportation, energy use in buildings, and solid waste. Consumption-based GHG accounting is an alternative to the sector-based approach to measuring GHG emissions. This focuses on the consumption of goods and services including:

  • Product and food manufacturing and disposal outside the boundary
  • Air travel and other transportation outside the boundary
  • Emissions from the production of natural gas and fuels; foreign fuels refined in California
  • Other emissions away from home (e.g. energy)

Ignoring consumption-based emissions is problematic because we are not counting a significant portion of the greenhouse gases we emit out of the boundaries of the area being measured. For example, in Marin County, CA, measured emissions are 1,441,640 MT per year (2017) and Consumption-based emissions are estimated to be three times that or 4,324,920 MT per year (2017). See more here.

To address the problem, Consumption-Based Emissions Inventory (CBEI) is a tool gaining traction among local, regional, and state governments such as San Francisco CA, Portland OR, Eugene OR, King County WA, and the states of California and Oregon. The C40 cities are working towards consumption-based emissions tracking as well.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District in Northern California has collaborated with the Cool Climate Network at UC Berkeley to measure Consumption-based emissions for the Bay Area. Learn more here.