Global sustainability of production and consumption decisions by means of carbon footprints

María Ángeles Cadarso Vecina y Luis Antonio López Santiago
María Ángeles Tobarra Gómez, Nuria Gómez Sanz and Jorge Enrique Zafrilla Rodríguez, Óscar Dejuán Asenjo, Fabio Monsalve Serrano, Carmen Córcoles Fuentes, Guadalupe Arce González
In the recent Paris Agreement on Climate Change reached in December 2015, the international community agreed on the target of limiting the global temperature increase to 2-1.5 degrees Celsius. This target was set taking into consideration the national proposed objectives, which on their own are not enough to get the global target. Consequently, it is necessary to set in motion newer and far-reaching policy measures. Furthermore, both the question of which criterion should be taking into account to distribute the environmental responsibilities and, on the other hand, the role played by the global value chains and international trade in such responsibility are issues which remained to be answered. The allocation of responsibilities country by country raises doubts about its efficacy as well as fairness; on the other hand, the shift to consumer responsibility criterion is also not free of problems, which would explain why it has only been used as a subsidiary  alternative in some mitigation policies. All of them lead to consider that the use of different criteria could be the best way to provide both a more accurate image of reality and a range of possibilities and impacts of what will be the outcomes of potential global and national mitigation policies. The present research project tries to contribute to the design of more suitable policies intended to widen the spectrum of action in quantitative terms -quantity of emissions covered- as well as in qualitative ones -range of agents involved- focusing, in addition, on the two scopes of
applications which have proved to be key in achieving more sustainable and decarbonized economies: by analysing the patterns of production and consumption and by defining, on this
basis, a new criterion to allocate the responsibility on emissions. The disruptive character of this project lies on the attention paid to Multinational companies (MNs) by developing a ground-breaking input-output multiregional model which takes into account the role played by MNs; this model will allow us to estimate the carbon footprint of MNs as well as blueprint a new criterion to allocate emissions based on ownership control. Thus, it will be possible to widen the range of agents responsible for emissions and, on this basis, to assess how the decisions made by the owners of the MNs can mitigate the climate change, including the global value chains. These results will allow us to evaluate the scope of the MNs, first, as transnational vehicles of mitigation, second, as a
starting point to negotiate bi or multilateral agreements and, finally, as a mechanism to get a greener administration. The changes on production patterns cannot resolve by themselves the increase in emissions; therefore, other policies which focus on consumers’ lifestyle are necessary to mitigate the climate change. Moreover, changes in the production processes will be deeper
and lasting if they are connected with changes in consumers’ patterns. In the scientific framework of anthropogenic footprints, the agents who are responsible for the climate change are those who make consumption decisions. This project, also, intends to look into some social and economic tendencies which shape the household consumption patterns: healthier diets, consumption of proximity products versus seasonal products, increase in inequality and the ageing of population.
KEYWORDS: carbon footprint, multiregional input-output models, multinationals, consumption patterns, trade