Carbon footprint of Flemish consumption

The carbon footprint (CF) of a country’s or region’s consumption includes all greenhouse gas emissions that arise worldwide as a result of its inhabitants’ consumption during a one-year period. Flemish final consumption consists on the one hand of products that are produced in Flanders for Flemish consumption, and on the other hand of materials and products that are imported for Flemish consumption.

14.2 t CO₂-eq./cap

  • The carbon footprint of Flanders decreased by 17% between 2010 and 2016.
  • Housing accounted for the largest portion of this decline (44%).

What do we see?

The figures from Statistics Flanders show that between 2010 and 2016 the carbon footprint decreased by 17% (2.9 tonnes of CO2 equivalents per inhabitant). In 2016 two thirds of the carbon footprint of Flemish consumption was linked to goods and services purchased by households (e.g. housing, transport and food). The remaining emissions were mainly linked to investments by companies and governments and to public services that consumers do not pay for directly (e.g. education and defence). 

75% of the decline in the CF between 2010-2016 can be attributed to the goods and services purchased by households. The biggest decrease was in housing (44% of the total decrease).

What’s the aim?

Flemish climate policy objectives are set based on territorial emissions. The policy focuses on measures to limit greenhouse gas emissions within Flanders. But if we only look at these emissions, it might look like circular strategies (purchasing policy, reuse, recycling…) are having a negative effect on the environment. However, if we include greenhouse gas emissions outside Flanders, as a result of Flemish consumption, then the environmental benefits of a circular economy become clear. In addition, the types of consumption with the highest material footprint (transport, food and housing) also have the highest carbon footprint. Furthermore, we can link 80% of the carbon footprint of Flemish consumption (170 Mt) to the production and distribution of globally purchased goods and services, the remaining 20% are created in the use phase. The way we handle materials therefore heavily influences our climate impact. Consequently, circular strategies should also lead to a reduction in our carbon footprint.

What does this indicator measure?

The carbon footprint of Flemish consumption includes indirect greenhouse gas emissions, which arise during the production of the products consumed, and direct greenhouse gasses, which arise during consumption by households (use phase). 

The calculation of the CF starts from an environmental input-output model (IO model). This model links economic data for the global economy to associated environmental data in a scientifically proven way. By using the Leontief inverse methodology, greenhouse gas emissions from the economic sectors at home and abroad are linked to the final consumption of goods and services in Flanders.

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