Decoupling or delusion? Measuring emissions displacement in foreign trade
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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OriginalversjonGlobal Environmental Change. 2018, 49 27-34. 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2017.12.006
In a world where climate goals are global but action remains firmly in the hands of states, reliable methods are needed to ensure that emissions reductions on a national level are not offset by carbon leakage. Appropriate indicators are needed to help policy makers set accurate targets for the carbon balance of their foreign trade and monitor the development of trade in a meaningful way. This paper proposes a new displacement indicator – the technology adjusted balance of emissions embodied in trade – that improves on existing ideas by separating out the effects of scale and composition of trade from the effects of different technologies and energy systems. The new indicator is calculated for Swedish and UK trade from 1995 to 2009, a period when both countries have reported decreasing territorial emissions together with sustained economic growth. One key finding is that, for both countries, outsourcing of emissions is less serious than what conventional analysis of emissions embodied in trade suggests. For Sweden, the technology adjusted balance of emissions embodied in trade is positive throughout the studied period, implying that its exports reduce emissions abroad more than what is generated by its imports. However, we also find that both countries have changed the composition of their imports and exports during this period: imports have become more carbon intensive and, exports less so, compared to the world economy at large.