The most common way of attributing carbon emissions or any other environmental pressure to a particular country or actor is based on production-based, or territorial, accounting, which estimates emissions released within a specific geographical area. This type of accounting is the basis for international negotiations, such as those on climate mitigation under the UNFCCC framework.

Consumption-based accounting is an alternative method that, in contrast, attributes emissions to the final consumers of goods and services. Consumption-based accounting methodologies take as their starting point the goods and services consumed within a territory, and then reallocates the emissions from production, wherever in the world that production may have occurred, to those final goods and services.

This Discussion Brief uses data from global databases, including IOTA, to illustrate the very different stories these two accounting methods can tell about the distrubition of emissions; in particular, the way that global trade separates consumer countries from a significant share of the emissions linked to their consumption.

Download the Discussion Brief (PDF, 1.65KB)

Read about PRINCE, a collaborative project using consumption-based accounting to produce policy-relevant macro indicators of the diverse environmental impacts linked to Swedish consumption, at home and abroad.