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Recent empirical assessments revealed that footprint indicators calculated with various multi-regional input–output (MRIO) databases deliver deviating results. In this paper, we propose a new method, called structural production layer decomposition (SPLD), which complements existing structural decomposition approaches. SPLD enables differentiating between effects stemming from specific parts in the technology matrix, e.g. trade blocks vs. domestic blocks, while still allowing to link the various effects to the total region footprint. Using the carbon footprint of the EU-28 in 2011 as an example, we analyse the differences between EXIOBASE, Eora, GTAP and WIOD. Identical environmental data are used across all MRIO databases. In all model comparisons, variations in domestic blocks have a more significant impact on the carbon footprint than variations in trade blocks. The results provide a wealth of information for MRIO developers and are relevant for policy makers designing climate policy measures targeted to specific stages along product supply chain.
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