Subnational greenhouse gas and land-based biodiversity footprints in the European Union

Jun 18, 2020 | Papers

EU countries show different levels of variability in their subnational GHG and land-based biodiversity footprints.

Insights into subnational environmental impacts and the underlying drivers are scarce, especially from a consumption-based perspective. Here, we quantified greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and land-based biodiversity losses associated with final consumption in 162 regions in the European Union in 2010. For this purpose, we developed an environmentally extended multi-regional input–output (MRIO) model with subnational European information on demand, production, and trade structures subdivided into 18 major economic sectors, while accounting for trade outside Europe. We employed subnational data on land use and national data on GHG emissions. Our results revealed within-country differences in per capita GHG and land-based biodiversity footprints up to factors of 3.0 and 3.5, respectively, indicating that national footprints may mask considerable subnational variability. The per capita GHG footprint increased with per capita income and income equality, whereas we did not find such responses for the per capita land-based biodiversity footprint, reflecting that extra income is primarily spent on energy-intensive activities. Yet, we found a shift from the domestic to the foreign part of the biodiversity footprints with rising population density and income. Because our analysis showed that most regions are already net importers of GHG emissions and biodiversity losses, we conclude that it is increasingly important to address the role of trade in national and regional policies on mitigating GHG emissions and averting further biodiversity losses, both within and outside the region itself. To further increase the policy relevance of subnational footprint analyses, we also recommend the compilation of more detailed subnational MRIO databases including harmonized environmental data.

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Harry C. Wilting, Aafke M. Schipper, Olga Ivanova, Diana Ivanova, Mark A.J. Huijbregts


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