The brief notes that research has shown that shifts in consumer behaviour in high-income countries (e.g. buying fewer goods and more services, and eating less meat) could lead to reductions in associated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of at least 10 per cent. Yet many of these goods consumed in these countries are made in poorer nations, so shifts in consumption could reduce their revenue from trade.

The authors find that if high-income countries were to shift spending to lower-GHG types of products and services, the average GDP of lower-income countries could drop by more than 4 per cent, and Least Developed Countries’ GDPs could drop by more than 5 per cent. Impacts on Least Developed Countries are driven most strongly by reduced purchases of clothing.

Given the importance of both emission reduction and sustainable development, it is important to find ways to reduce emissions from consumption that minimise the impact on poorer countries. The authors list three promising approaches that warrant further exploration: purchasing from poor and low-GHG-intensity countries; importing higher-cost, higher-quality, and value-added goods; and lowering the GHG intensity of production in poor countries.

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