While many local governments track greenhouse gas ("GHG") emissions, almost all of them exclude most GHGs associated with consumption. These consumption-based emissions stem from the lifecycle production, pre-purchase transportation, sale, and disposal of goods, food, and services produced outside of a local jurisdiction but consumed inside the jurisdiction. Based on the limited data measuring extraterritorial emissions, these consumption-based emissions amount to more than half-and in some places more than threefourths- of GHG emissions directly connected to local consumption patterns and behaviors. This Article argues that local governments should track and measure these pervasive GHGs. Doing so may unlock meaningful information about our carbon footprint that can be leveraged to build more effective climate mitigation strategies.
This Article is most concerned with how the dramatic undercounting of GHG emissions at the local level and the proliferation of GHG emissions associated with consumption can lead to both under- and over-regulation at the local level. This Article argues that local governments should track and measure consumption-based GHGs for four reasons. First, given the *
voluminous amount of GHGs associated with urban consumption, there are significant opportunities to mitigate GHG emissions. In order to do so, local communities must have the correct information. Second, failing to measure these GHGs can lead to inaccurate and inefficient regulation. Third, regulating GHGs in the absence of consumption-based information may penalize local production. Finally, measuring local consumption-based GHGs may provide the necessary information leading to more politically feasible and equitable regulation. In conclusion, tracking and measuring consumption- based GHGs at the local level should be part of any meaningful GHG reduction strategy.
Outsourced Emissions: Why Local Governments Should Track and Measure Consumption- Based Greenhouse Gases,
U. Colo. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholar.law.colorado.edu/lawreview/vol92/iss2/3