The distribution of direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions of household consumption in Belgium

It is increasingly recognised that the challenges of climate change and social inequality are strongly interconnected. The distributive dimensions of climate change are multifaceted, running across generations, countries and populations within countries. These dimensions include the (direct and indirect) production of greenhouse gas emissions, the impacts of a changing climate, and the room for manoeuvre that people have to tackle climate change and adapt to a changing climate. In this presentation, I illustrate one aspect of the distributive dimension of greenhouse gas emissions, focusing on Belgium, a developed country with moderate levels of income inequality and a relatively strong welfare state. More in particular, I build on several recent studies for Belgium to show how direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions that result from household consumption are distributed across the population, and linked with living standards and other household characteristics. To do so, we make use of Belgian Household Budget Survey data, enriched with ‘pollution coefficients’ that reflect the greenhouse gas emissions associated consumption expenditures per product category. The pollution coefficients are derived from an input-output model and environmental accounts. We find that greenhouse gas emissions correlate substantially with income, but the correlation differs strongly by consumption category. At the same time, the ‘carbon intensity’ of consumption decreases with income. The analysis shows the importance of factoring in distributional aspects when designing climate policies.