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The hidden carbon footprint of our consumption

Large portions of the emissions from citizens’ consumption are excluded from the official Norwegian climate account. Collectively, these emissions make up our hidden carbon footprint. Since much of our consumption is located abroad, almost half of Norway’s consumption-based emissions occur outside of Norway’s borders.
Large portions of the emissions from citizens’ consumption are excluded from the official Norwegian climate account. Collectively, these emissions make up our hidden carbon footprint. Since much of our consumption is located abroad, almost half of Norway’s consumption-based emissions occur outside of Norway’s borders.

Our daily behaviour contributes to an acceleration of the climate crisis. Whether it is the mince in our tacos, the sweater we buy on sale, that brand new car, a weekend trip to Barcelona or a renovation of our kitchen, human habits inevitably influence the climate.

Report

Title: Extended summary — Consumptionbased carbon footprint account for Norway
Author: Kjartan Steen-Olsen, Asplan Viak
Published: January 2021
Publisher: Future in our hands

Download

Report cover

All these activities have a carbon footprint when the goods are produced, transported, used, and discarded. Consequently, our consumption staggers up to two thirds of Norway’s total emissions.

To solve the climate crisis, we need to shift towards more sustainable lifestyles. While this a wish shared by many Norwegians, our climate change policy largely ignores the issue. Why is this?

Emissions outside Norway

The simple answer is that large parts of the emissions are excluded from the Norwegian climate account. They make up our hidden carbon footprint. As we import much of our food and consumer goods, as well as travel abroad, almost half of all consumer-based emissions take place beyond Norway’s borders.

Out of sight – out of mind. It is not an issue Norwegian politicians choose to prioritize.

Those of us living in wealthy parts of the world have a particular responsibility to change our polluting habits. We have the opportunity to live differently. We can choose to buy less items, repair what we already own, rent - rather than buy - new things, eat more plant-based food, or share a car and refrain from going on that cheap weekend trip to New York.

Politicians have responsibility

However, this is not solely our responsibility. We need brave politicians who lead the way, set high standards for businesses, and facilitate more sustainable lifestyle choices.

The corona pandemic has shown that we can be very adaptable if our leaders are clear about where we are going and what needs to be done, as well as when we work towards a common goal.

A few years ago, Sweden officially implemented a consumption-based climate account. Their statistics demonstrate and suggest to the public where they can make daily emission cuts. For example, train travel has gained traction in Sweden after the high emissions of air travel were brought into the light. The political debate thus revolves around which measures authorities should implement.

Future in our hands believes that a consumption-based climate account is an important tool to extend the debate on climate change policy and resource use in Norway.