Developing consumption-based greenhouse gas accounts: The carbon footprint of local public service provision in Norway
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This thesis describes the development and application of a tool to assess and document the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions of municipalities and other public-service providers. The model is linked to the financial accounting system of municipalities and counties to calculate the Carbon Footprint (CF) of all purchases/activities made. In particular indirect emissions (Scope 3 according to the greenhouse gas (GHG) protocol) will effectively be accounted for with this system. One of the main findings of the thesis is indeed the importance of Scope 3 emissions to the total CF of the cases investigated. Within the local climate action framework, this thesis focuses on the CF resulting from the activities of the municipal/county administration. This will largely be the provision of services. Insights in the structure of the CF of services will therefore be provided in the papers presented in the thesis. Results show that direct GHG emissions from the burning of fossil fuels are not very significant. At the same time, indirect GHG emissions embodied in the purchase of products and services from sub-suppliers are very significant. Furthermore, when time series are investigated, we identify a shift from direct emissions (e.g. the combustion of diesel in municipal vehicles) to indirect Scope 3 emissions (e.g. the purchase of transportation services from a private company). This outsourcing of activities indicates a necessary shift to complete consumption-based inventories that include all direct and indirect GHG emissions in developing comparable indicators of sustainability. The comparability of municipal CFs is the focus of one of the papers in the thesis. In the paper, we investigate how the CF of all Norwegian municipalities compares to a set of key characteristics. The main finding here is that the CF is highly dependent on both municipal wealth and municipal size. Small and wealthy municipalities tend to have a significantly higher CF per capita relating to the provision of services compared to larger municipalities with lower per capita available funds. One interesting finding is that size only has an influence on the CF only up to a certain level, identified as being in the area of ~ 50 000 inhabitants. The thesis further deals with the implementation process of consumption-based accounting in Norwegian municipalities. Here we also touch upon improvement potentials and suggestions on future developments, both regarding developing local GHG inventories and on the model applied. The thesis shows that the municipal part of the total national CF of Norway is about 5 percent. This clearly illustrates the need to take into account household and other public CFs in developing local GHG inventories. The last paper presented in the thesis indicates the potential for this by assessing the CF of Norwegian counties. Also, businesses are showing an increasing interest in GHG accounting. This may potentially improve the calculation of upstream GHG emissions in the supply chain, but also raises issues on double counting. Currently, work on regional household CFs using the consumer expenditure surveys is also undertaken. We hope that this thesis will contribute to the development of complete consumption-based inventories covering all private and public consumption at the local level.