The traditional attribution of responsibility for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to producing countries may be distorted by international trade flows as importing emission-intensive commodities contributes to reducing a country’s production-based emissions. This has motivated the calculation of carbon footprints that measure the amount of domestic and foreign GHG emissions (directly and indirectly) embodied in commodities intended for final consumption by a country’s residents. In this
working paper, we present carbon footprint estimations for Belgium based on global multi-regional input-output (MRIO) tables that have been made consistent with detailed Belgian national accounts. According to our calculations, Belgium’s carbon footprint is substantially higher than its productionbased emissions, which means that Belgium is a net importer of GHG emissions. Moreover, our results show that consistency with detailed national accounts does matter for MRIO-based carbon footprint calculations, in particular for a small open economy like Belgium.
Over the last couple of decades, trade liberalisation has progressed and environmental regulations have become more stringent, in particular regarding emissions of air pollution. This has raised the fear in developed countries that emission-intensive activities are increasingly carried out abroad. This paper develops an approach for testing whether emission-intensive industries have greater shares of imported intermediate materials. The test is applied to the Belgian manufacturing sector for the years 1995-2007. Emissions of three types of air pollutants are analysed: greenhouse gases, acidifying gases and tropospheric precursor gases. The results provide evidence that industries with a high intensity in acidifying gas emissions (SO2, NOX and NH3) tend to import a greater share of intermediate materials. This is likely to be linked to the stricter enforcement of regulations for air quality, which act upon acidifying gases. There is no such evidence in the results for emissions of tropospheric precursor gases and in particular of greenhouse gases. Regarding the latter, despite stringent regulations, enforcement appears to be less strict.
Since the mid-90’s, production-related air emissions in Belgian manufacturing have been reduced substantially and it can be shown that the pace of the reduction has been fastest for domestic intermediates. It is widely debated whether offshoring has played a role in this reduction by replacing domestic intermediates by imported intermediates. This paper develops a decomposition analysis to measure the contribution of offshoring – the share of imported intermediates in total intermediates – to the fall in air emission intensities for domestic intermediates. This decomposition analysis reveals that 27% of the fall in the intensity of greenhouse gas emissions, 20% of the fall in the intensity of acidifying emissions and 20% of the fall in the intensity of tropospheric precursor emissions in Belgian manufacturing between 1995 and 2007 can be attributed to offshoring.
This paper illustrates the deficiency of the production approach as a tool to measure a country’s responsibility for international environmental impacts. A use approach is presented as a more suitable tool. The difference between the two approaches is determined by a better grasp of international trade, which can lead to environmental leakage when a country specialises in the production of environmentally friendly products and has the environmentally unfriendly products which it consumes produced abroad. We show that in the period 1995-2002 Belgium was on average a provider of air emission intensive products for the rest of the world. Environmental leakage was mostly negative. However, the evolution of the Belgian environmental terms of trade shows that by 2002 its imports had become considerably more air emission intensive with respect to its exports than in 1995. There are indications that this evolution is due to a considerable increase of extra-EU imports of air emission intensive products. This in turn could point to environmentally inspired offshoring. However, the currently available data do not allow us to test this hypothesis.