This Working Paper examines which socioeconomic household characteristics determine greenhouse gas emissions in Belgium. The analysis is based on the PEACH2AIR database, which links the air pollution data with consumption expenditure of Belgian households as recorded in the 2014 Household Budget Survey.
To combat the greenhouse effect and climate change, as stipulated by various international treaties, greenhouse gas emissions must be strongly reduced. For instance, Belgium has made a commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in non-ETS sectors by 35% between 2005 and 2030. Households, businesses and the government have a shared responsibility. This report focuses on the household sector.
This report examines which socioeconomic household characteristics determine greenhouse gas emissions associated with consumption by households in Belgium. Taking into account a series of assumptions, the most important of which is that imported goods and services cause the same level of air pollution as those produced in Belgium, the PEACH2AIR database forms the basis for this research. PEACH2AIR links the air pollution data with consumption expenditure of Belgian households as recorded in the 2014 Household Budget Survey. It has been improved on several points compared to the 2018 version, such as the imputation of irregular expenditures and more precise air pollution data.
The analysis shows that food, transport fuel and household energy consumption account for more than 60% of greenhouse gas emissions, while they represent less than 30% of total expenditure. As a result, these categories have a high pollution intensity.
Total greenhouse gas emissions increase with income, but pollution intensity (grams of pollution per euro spent) decreases as income increases. This is because the higher the income, the lower the share of expenditure on energy for the home and food in total expenditure, and it is precisely this expenditure that is proportionately highly polluting. This relative decoupling between air pollution and income persists after controlling for the effect of other socioeconomic household characteristics. The same reasoning applies to greenhouse gas emissions and household size. As the household grows, the total greenhouse gases increase, but decrease per household member, which is due to economies of scale.
After controlling for the effect of other variables, it appears that the higher the age and education level of the head of the household as well as the size of the dwelling, the higher the greenhouse gas emissions at the household level. The opposite is true for households of which the head is unemployed, who live in an apartment (rather than in a house) or rent a dwelling. These results help to better understand the distribution of contribution to greenhouse gas emissions in Belgium, the potential redistributive effects of environmental policies, and the identification of households that may need more support for reducing their emissions.
This report is part of the SUSPENS research project funded by the Federal Public Service for Science Policy Programming. SUSPENS wants to support the policy preparation that accompanies the social transition to less polluting consumption patterns.