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Global Carbon Project consumption 2011

Supply Chain Carbon: Whose Responsibility?

Global Carbon Project consumption 2011Supply-chain carbon footprinting gives companies a clearer idea of their environmental impact. But at the national level, it could create headaches.

Writing for the New York Times, Eduardo Porter asks a “disquieting question”: “Are emissions the responsibility of the countries that made them or of the countries for whom the products were made?”

He cites findings by the Global Carbon Project, which calculated that the carbon emissions created by Americans’ consumption are about 8 percent greater than the emissions produced within US borders. For the EU, the figure is 33 percent.

More in-depth examination of the numbers leads us to a troubling conclusion: that far from having stabilized their carbon output, industrial countries have just offshored their emissions. And this leads to a myriad of questions for nations to consider as they attempt to broker climate agreements.

But more promisingly, could it also suggest a role for companies in aiding such negotiations, or at least in helping governments to collect accurate and useful data? After all, the private sector has been developing supply-chain carbon management for several years. While the field is still new, perhaps business’s head start could provide a rough roadmap for international negotiators.

Takeaway: Carbon tallies for consumption are aiding understanding of emissions patterns, but could also make international climate negotiations more complex.

Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.

Picture credit: Global Carbon Project

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