Growth in Environmental Footprints and Environmental Impacts Embodied in Trade: Resource Efficiency Indicators from EXIOBASE3

Richard Wood, Konstantin Stadler, Moana Simas, Tatyana Bulavskaya, Stefan Giljum, Franz Stephan Lutter, Arnold Tukker

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review

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Most countries show a relative decoupling of economic growth from domestic resource use,
implying increased resource efficiency. However, international trade facilitates the exchange
of products between regions with disparate resource productivity. Hence, for an understanding
of resource efficiency from a consumption perspective that takes into account the
impacts in the upstream supply chains, there is a need to assess the environmental pressures
embodied in trade. We use EXIOBASE3, a new multiregional input-output database,
to examine the rate of increase in resource efficiency, and investigate the ways in which
international trade contributes to the displacement of pressures on the environment from
the consumption of a population. We look at the environmental pressures of energy use,
greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, material use, water use, and land use. Material use stands
out as the only indicator growing in both absolute and relative terms to population and
gross domestic product (GDP), while land use is the only indicator showing absolute decoupling
from both references. Energy, GHG, and water use show relative decoupling. As
a percentage of total global environmental pressure, we calculate the net impact displaced
through trade rising from 23% to 32% for material use (1995¿2011), 23% to 26% for water
use, 20% to 29% for energy use, 20% to 26% for land use, and 19% to 24% for GHG
emissions. The results show a substantial disparity between trade-related impacts for Organization
for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and non-OECD countries.
At the product group level, we observe the most rapid growth in environmental footprints
in clothing and footwear. The analysis points to implications for future policies aiming to
achieve environmental targets, while fully considering potential displacement effects through
international trade.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)553 - 564
JournalJournal of Industrial Ecology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2018

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