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Title: Integrating embodied emissions into climate change mitigation policy
Author: Scott, Kate Amy
ISNI:       0000 0004 5918 4449
Awarding Body: University of Leeds
Current Institution: University of Leeds
Date of Award: 2016
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International greenhouse gas emissions are typically monitored and regulated from a production perspective. This accounts for emissions produced directly by industries within a country’s territory. International climate regulation centres around decarbonisation, negative emissions technologies and energy efficiency, none of which are aligned in practice with a two degree future. Given the remaining emissions gap between limiting temperature rise to two degrees (or lower) and existing climate mitigation pledges, mitigation policies must be constantly reviewed. Materials act as a carrier of industrial energy that allows, through trade, the transfer of emissions between producers and consumers. Despite continual increases in aggregate consumption, industrialised countries have managed to stabilise their production emissions, partially from increasing imports from developing countries. For example, 20% of emissions growth in countries without climate targets under the Kyoto Protocol can be attributed to products exported for final consumption in countries with climate targets, who are not assigned any responsibility for reducing them. However international policies continue to prioritise production-related measures that reduce the carbon intensity of energy supply or reduce direct energy consumption. Reducing absolute demand for materials and products, which embody emissions, is absent from national climate policy packages in high-consuming developed countries. In this context, ‘sufficiency’ is seen as politically unpopular and often framed by companies and governments as denying consumers’ basic rights or by describing consumers unwilling to change their behaviours. Yet evidence suggests consumption patterns are instead heavily influenced by ingrained social practices, locked in by powerful marketing corporations. I investigate how the implementation of embodied emissions would redefine existing climate targets and policies, and explore further opportunities for resource consumption policies in climate mitigation. This is within the context of existing UK climate targets, however I also argue that the targets need to be reframed as they, in themselves, are not aligned with the international climate objective of preventing two degrees or lower temperature rise. I examine how the integration of embodied emissions would alter the UK’s 2050 climate target and mitigation policies, how the UK’s energy supply system might adapt when mitigating for emissions embodied in fuels and energy technologies, and the additional emissions scope of extending energy efficiency policies to include emissions embodied in resource use in the EU. I conclude that resource consumption policies increase the policy portfolio of energy dominant mitigation strategies and can contribute to bridging the remaining emissions gap. However, the tools and targets used to devise this evidence base are limited, and need further validation. I propose complementing mandatory production emissions accounting with mandatory consumption-based accounts. Their use in policy would ensure actions in one country do not result in a shift in production impacts to another and increases the policies available to meeting climate targets, particularly in combination with resource efficiency policies. In the discussion I make the case that the foundation of such a framework already exists and outline possible steps for implementation.
Supervisor: Barrett, John ; Steinberger, Julia Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available