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THE EUROPEAN ENVIRONMENT STATE AND OUTLOOK 2010 CONSUMPTION AND THE ENVIRONMENT
What is the SOER 2010?The European environment — state and outlook 2010 (SOER 2010) is aimed primarily at policymakers,in Europe and beyond, involved with framing and implementing policies that could support environmentalimprovements in Europe. The information also helps European citizens to better understand, care for andimprove Europes environment.The SOER 2010 umbrella includes four key assessments:1. a set of 13 Europe‑wide thematic assessments of key environmental themes;2. an exploratory assessment of global megatrends relevant for the European environment;3. a set of 38 country assessments of the environment in individual European countries;4. a synthesis — an integrated assessment based on the above assessments and other EEA activities.SOER 2010 assessments Thematic Country assessments assessments Understanding SOER 2010 Country profiles climate change — Synthesis — Mitigating National and climate change regional stories Adapting to Common climate change environmental themes Climate change Biodiversity mitigation Land use Land use Nature protection Soil and biodiversity Marine and Waste coastal environment Consumption Assessment of Freshwater and environment global megatrends Material resources Social Air pollution and waste megatrends Water resources: Technological Each of the above quantity and flows megatrends are assessed by each EEA member Economic country (32) and Freshwater quality megatrends EEA cooperating country (6) Environmental Air pollution megatrends Urban environment Political megatrendsAll SOER 2010 outputs are available on the SOER 2010 website: www.eea.europa.eu/soer. The websitealso provides key facts and messages, summaries in non‑technical language and audio‑visuals, as well asmedia, launch and event information.
THE EUROPEAN ENVIRONMENT STATE AND OUTLOOK 2010 CONSUMPTION AND THE ENVIRONMENT
Thematic assessment | Consumption and the environmentConsumption and the environmentSummary �������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 4 �1 Introduction ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 6 �1.1 Why do we need to address consumption?. ...................................................................... 61.2 The policy challenge: some first reflections...................................................................... 72 Consumption patterns in Europe and their worldwide environmental pressures and impacts���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 92.1 Trends in consumption expenditure. ............................................................................... 9 .2.2 Current European consumption patterns have high environmental impacts. ......................... 9 .2.3 The unseen trade in environmental pressures................................................................ 11 .2.4 Environmental pressures caused by different consumption categories. .............................. 12 .2.5 Low-pressure households — a good example of more environmentally sustainable consumption?. .......................................................................................... 17 .3 Understanding what shapes current and potential future consumption������������������ 183.1 Economic influences on consumption............................................................................ 183.2 Demographic influences on consumption....................................................................... 193.3 Technology and innovation as drivers of consumption. ..................................................... 203.4 Urbanisation and the role of infrastructure..................................................................... 213.5 Social and cultural influences on consumption behaviour................................................. 213.6 Types of consumers.................................................................................................... 224 Food and drink�������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 244.1 Trends in consumption................................................................................................ 244.2 Life-cycle environmental impacts of food and drink......................................................... 244.3 Food and drink outlooks and scenarios.......................................................................... 274.4 Responses . ............................................................................................................... 285 Housing ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 30 �5.1 Trends in consumption................................................................................................ 305.2 Life-cycle environmental impacts of housing.................................................................. 325.3 Housing outlooks and scenarios. .................................................................................. 33 .5.4 Responses . ............................................................................................................... 336 Mobility ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 366.1 Trends in mobility demand and modal split.................................................................... 366.2 Life‑cycle environmental impacts of mobility.................................................................. 376.3 Mobility outlooks and scenarios.................................................................................... 396.4 Responses. ............................................................................................................... 39 .7 Tourism ������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������ 41 �7.1 Trends in consumption................................................................................................ 417.2 Life‑cycle environmental impacts of tourism. ................................................................. 41 .7.3 Tourism outlooks and scenarios. ................................................................................... 427.4 Responses . ............................................................................................................... 438 Concluding reflections: consumption, environmental priorities and policies����������� 458.1 Consumption and current environmental policies............................................................ 458.2 Consumption and management of natural capital and ecosystem services. ......................... 468.3 Consumption and integration of environmental considerations across policy domains. ......... 47 .8.4 The role of consumption in greening the economy.......................................................... 478.5 The triangle of change — the role of different actors on the road to greening the economy..... 49References���������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������������� 51 The European environment | State and outlook 2010 3
Thematic assessment | Consumption and the environment Summary The consumption of goods and services in EEA member countries is a major driver of global resource use — and associated environmental impacts. Growth in global trade is resulting in an increasing share of environmental pressures and impacts from European consumption taking place beyond Europe. Food and drink, housing, mobility and tourism are responsible for a large part of the pressures and impacts caused by consumption in the EU. Achieving significant reductions in environmental pressures and impacts will require changing private and public consumption patterns, to supplement gains achieved through better technology and improved production processes. Drivers and pressures caused by total national consumption can be allocated to eating and drinking, housing and infrastructure, Consumption is shaped by an array of complex, and mobility. These three broad consumption areas are interrelated factors such as demographics, income and estimated to have contributed approximately two-thirds prices, technology, trade, policies and infrastructure, of consumption-related material use, greenhouse gas as well as social, cultural and psychological factors. emissions, acidifying emissions and ozone precursor Production activities across economic sectors, including emissions. extractive industries, agriculture, energy, transport and manufacturing, are directly responsible for the majority The reasons for these high shares are that food and drink, of the environmental impacts caused by the economy. housing and mobility are the areas which Europeans However, it is private and public consumption that are spend most on and at the same time the areas with the the fundamental causal factors and drivers of change in highest pressures per euro spent. Tourism is a fourth area production activities. causing high and growing environmental impacts, both within the EU and elsewhere. Consumption leads to the direct creation of environmental pressures from the use of products and services, for A major reason why consumption negatively affects example, through driving a car or heating a house with the environment and causes an over-use of resources is fossil fuels. Of greater magnitude, however, are the because the costs to society of environmental and resource indirect pressures that are created along the production degradation are not fully reflected in the prices of goods chains of the goods and services consumed, including, for and services. Thus, many goods are relatively cheap example, food, clothing, furniture or electricity. Both direct even though they cause major harm to the environment, and indirect pressures result in environmental impacts, in ecosystems or human health. particular, global warming, biodiversity degradation, soil sealing and air and water pollution. Since an increasing share of the final and intermediate goods consumed in The need for sophisticated policy Europe is imported, a growing proportion of impacts packages caused by our consumption takes place in other parts of the world. The average environmental footprint (an A culture of high and continuously growing levels of indicator of pressures from consumption) per person consumption, generally associated with well-being and in EEA member countries is about double the available success, has evolved in western European countries for biocapacity (an indicator of land which is biologically decades, and EU-12 Member States and the western productive) of those countries. Balkan countries are rapidly catching up. An EEA analysis of nine EU Member States (representing Large differences in environmental pressures from 268 million of the EUs total 501 million people) has consumption, even between households with equal found that the majority of key environmental pressures income levels, indicate a considerable potential for more4 The European environment | State and outlook 2010
Thematic assessment | Consumption and the environmentsustainable consumption patterns through shifting choices regulatory and voluntary instruments, providingtowards more sustainable alternatives. Examples include: sustainable infrastructure, technological support,shifting from car use to collective transport, cycling and consumer education and information, and green publicwalking; and choosing high quality and eco-labelled procurement (the purchase of goods, services and publicproducts and energy-efficient housing solutions. Secondly, works by governments). A critical element of such policyadditional income could be channelled towards products packages could be provided by ecological tax reform,and services with relatively low environmental pressures where the burden of taxation is shifted from labour tosuch as communication, education and sustainable leisure environmentally damaging activities.activities. The framework conditions should enable business andEurope will be better equipped to achieve sustainable consumers/citizens to act sustainably, and business andconsumption patterns by developing and implementing citizens need to take action by adopting more sustainablesophisticated policy packages. These would include consumption and production patterns. The European environment | State and outlook 2010 5
Thematic assessment | Consumption and the environment 1 Introduction …the sheer weight of the combined aspirations and lifestyles of 500 million Europeans is just too great. Never mind the legitimate desires of many other billions on our planet to share those lifestyles .... We will need to change the behaviour of European consumers. To work on peoples awareness, and to influence their habits. Janez Potočnik, European Commissioner for Environment (March 2010) …the major cause of the continued deterioration of the global environment is the unsustainable pattern of consumption and production... UN Agenda 21, Chapter 4 (1992) 1.1 Why do we need to address Although an increasing global population is a factor consumption? in rising pressures, it is consumption and production patterns in developed countries, with developing Demand for natural resources worldwide has increased countries catching up rapidly, that are the key drivers of tremendously over recent decades. The main drivers have global environmental problems. This was recognised in been growth in population, wealth and consumption, Agenda 21 in 1992 and again at the Johannesburg World with high population growth mainly in developing Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002, where countries and highest levels of wealth and consumption in governments agreed a Plan of Implementation strongly developed countries. focused on sustainable consumption and production (SCP) and a commitment to develop a 10-year framework This demand is causing major, irreversible impacts on of programmes on SCP (UNCSD, 2002). global ecosystems and ecosystem services: 130 000 km2 of tropical rainforest are being cleared each year. In addition, Consumption leads to direct environmental pressures since 1960 a third of the worlds farmland has been from the use of products and services, for example, abandoned, exhausted as a result of overexploitation and through driving a car or heating a house with fossil fuels. soil degradation (EEA, 2010a). Of greater interest and magnitude, however, are the indirect pressures created along the production chains Moreover, emissions and wastes emitted during the of goods and services, including, for example, food and processing and conversion of resources into goods and other consumer goods, but also energy services. Since services have caused further damage to the natural an increasing share of the final and intermediate goods environment and human health. Nitrogen pollution, consumed in Europe is imported, a growing proportion of ground-level ozone and particulate pollution are on the impacts caused by our consumption takes place in other increase, as is the prevalence of synthetic chemicals in the parts of the world. environment (EEA, 2010a), with negative impacts on the environment and health. A consumption-based perspective for assessing and responding to environmental pressures highlights various If one isolates different activities in the economy, it is leverage points for reducing them. Complementary production activities across sectors, such as mining, actions to reduce environmental pressures throughout the agriculture, and manufacturing, that are directly life cycle from resource extraction and production through responsible for the majority of the environmental consumption to final use are shown in Figure 1.1. pressures caused by economic development. However, private and public consumption of goods and services The uppermost set of actions — responses aimed directly is the fundamental causal factor and driver of change in at improving production processes and technologies, production activities and the resulting flows of resources and substituting environmentally-intensive material and wastes from and to the environment. and energy inputs with greener alternatives — have6 The European environment | State and outlook 2010
Thematic assessment | Consumption and the environmentFigure 1.1 Complementary actions to reduce the environmental pressures along the life cycle of products and services Production Improving the eco-efficiency of production of goods and services End-of-life Products/services Improving the eco-efficiency Improving products of waste management including and services using eco-design reuse and recycling and other measures Consumption Reducing consumption levels and/or changing consumption patterns away from eco-intensive goods and servicesreceived most attention over recent decades. Such actions The term consumption as used in this assessment covershave resulted in clear reductions in the intensity of private (household) and public (government) finalenvironmental pressures (emissions per unit of economic consumption of goods and services and investmentsoutput) from European industry. Some progress has also in infrastructure (1), whether domestically produced orbeen made in the end-of-life stage through improving wholly or partially supplied through imports. In termswaste management (see the SOER 2010 material resources of value, private consumption was 2.6 times greater thanand waste assessment (EEA, 2010b)). public consumption across the EU‑27 at the beginning of 2010 (Eurostat, 2010a, 2010b). The main focus in thisThis assessment focuses on the two other stages in the life assessment is accordingly on private consumption, withcycle: products/services and consumption. public consumption addressed to a lesser extent.Improved design can provide products with lowerimpacts, including lower waste generation during their 1.2 The policy challenge: some firstproduction, when they are in use and at the end of their reflectionsuseful lives. However, it is increasingly recognised thatenvironmental problems such as climate change cannot There is a huge, largely unused potential for encouragingbe solved through technological improvements alone (see, environmentally less intensive consumption patternsinter alia, Swedish EPA, 2010). by households. This is illustrated by a recent report that found that the annual greenhouse gas (GHG) emissionsActions influencing private and public consumption caused directly and indirectly by equal-income Swissare also necessary as these can have knock-on effects households range from 5 to 17 tonnes of carbon dioxideupstream, potentially reducing pressures created during (CO2) per person, purely as a result of differing patternsproduction. Such actions include those aimed specifically of consumption (Girod and de Haan, 2009). Encouragingat encouraging demand for less pressure-intensive greener procurement by government and business canproducts but also actions aimed at encouraging broader also pay significant environmental dividends and may belifestyle changes. more easily achievable than shifting private consumption(1) More formally called fixed capital formation and including investments in machinery, transport systems, sewage and water services etc. The European environment | State and outlook 2010 7
Thematic assessment | Consumption and the environment patterns as it does not involve millions of citizens. Green The Europe 2020 Strategy for Smart, Sustainable and procurement by government and business can also play an Inclusive Growth includes a flagship initiative on exemplary role and encourage more widespread adoption Resource-efficient Europe which aims to support the shift of sustainable purchasing amongst citizens. towards a resource-efficient and low-carbon economy (EC, 2010). Achieving this will require major technological The broad private consumption areas of housing, food improvements, but also changes in consumption — and drink, and mobility are given special attention as moving towards goods and services that are more they have been identified by a number of studies as being resource-efficient. responsible for a large part of the pressures caused by consumption in the EU (JRC/IPTS, 2006; ETC/SCP, 2009). This will not be easy. Environmentally harmful Although it overlaps with the other consumption areas, consumption patterns are institutionalised, economically, tourism has also been identified as an important contributor politically, technically and socially, and consequently to environmental pressures, especially water shortages, seem normal and inevitable to most Europeans. land-use changes in vulnerable areas and consequently They also help define the aspirations for public considerable impacts on biodiversity (Nijdam and Wilting, spending and consumption by the growing consumer 2003; EEA, 2009a,b; EEA, 2006), and GHG emissions from class in developing countries, that could amount to air travel. 1.2 billion people in 2030 (see EEA, 2010c). Changes in consumption behaviour are needed to The promotion of more sustainable consumption patterns complement technological improvements as targeting in the future may be achieved most effectively through consumption can tackle issues that production- and the development of sophisticated tailored policy packages technology-focussed policies cannot. Firstly, environmental that provide a framework that enables consumers, gains made through technical efficiency are often partially retailers and producers to act more sustainably. Such or wholly offset by resulting increases in consumption due packages would include well-chosen mixtures of economic to lower costs of production and/or use and more money incentives, provision of information to consumers through thereby becoming available for spending on other/more awareness-raising, labelling and other means, investments goods and services — the so‑called rebound effect (Box 3.1; in improved infrastructure, technology support, voluntary Hertwich, 2008). Secondly, global environmental pressures agreements and where necessary regulation to achieve that take place overseas but are caused by European objectives as effectively as possible. consumption are beyond the reach of current European production-related policies. The most direct way to reduce In the following sections, the global environmental these pressures may therefore be to influence which types pressures resulting from European consumption and of imported goods are being purchased. key individual consumption areas are assessed on the macro scale. The differing environmental profiles of The potential for reducing global environmental impacts households and their underlying behavioural causes through influencing consumption is yet to be exploited. are then reviewed to assess the potential for reducing The EU Sustainable Development Strategy (European consumption-related environmental pressures. Council, 2006) has identified the promotion of sustainable consumption and production as one of seven key The complex nature of consumption and the underlying challenges and stipulated respective objectives and targets. factors that shape it now and in the future are briefly More specifically, the EU Action Plan on Sustainable investigated. The environmental pressures related to Consumption and Production and Sustainable Industrial four areas of consumption with high environmental Policies (EC, 2008) includes elements that aim directly at pressures — food, housing, mobility and tourism — and influencing consumer behaviour and promoting greener the responses used to tackle them are examined. The final public procurement, but its main focus lies in cleaner and section provides concluding reflections on consumption, leaner production and better products. The planned review environmental priorities and the role various actors — of the Action Plan in 2012 may provide an opportunity to public authorities, business, and citizens — can play to expand and strengthen the consumption elements. achieve desired change.8 The European environment | State and outlook 2010
Thematic assessment | Consumption and the environment2 Consumption patterns in Europe and their worldwide environmental pressures and impacts2.1 Trends in consumption for measuring the global pressures caused by European expenditure consumption are less mature and significantly more uncertain, due in part to data scarcity in many of EuropesConsumption, as used in this report, covers both trading partners.private and public consumption of goods and servicesproduced domestically and imported, and investments Various methods for estimating global pressures causedin infrastructure. Private consumption in Europe is by European consumption are under development.significantly higher than public consumption, ranging These include the input-output analyses of single regionsfrom 2–3 times higher in the EU‑15 and EFTA (2) or multiregional economic and environment accountscountries to 4–6 times in Turkey and the Western Balkans (for an overview, see Minx et al., 2009); methods using(World Bank, 2009). However, public consumption national inventory tables combined with life-cycle impactremains an important element of national consumption, data for key imported and exported goods; hybrids ofand is also arguably more directly responsive to input‑output methods and life-cycle-analysis (LCA)government policy. process data; and resource accounting methods developed to estimate national ecological, carbon, land and waterAverage private consumption expenditure per person (3) footprints. A description and evaluation of methods canrose by 35 % in the EU‑27 between 1990 and 2007, with be found in Lutter et al. (2008). The EEA is currentlythe greatest growth, 75 %, in the 12 countries that have implementing a simplified accounting method thatjoined the EU since 2004 (EU‑12). Growth has also been addresses, inter alia, the relationship between productionrapid in the West Balkans and Turkey, rising by 130 % and consumption patterns and their impacts onand 54 % respectively in the same period (World Bank, ecosystems, both within and outside Europe (footprint).2009). Nonetheless, private consumption expenditure The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is also developingin the EU‑15 and EFTA still exceeds expenditure in the methods for estimating the impacts of Europeanother regions by a factor of 2–2.7. consumption using combinations of national inventory and trade flow data as well as life-cycle inventories ofPrivate consumption in EEA member countries is representative imported and exported goods.dominated by housing, transport and food and drink,with the share of food and drink reducing as incomes The Ecological Footprint (EF) is currently one ofincrease. The fastest growing private consumption the few consumption-based indicators that can becategories in the EU are communication, recreation benchmarked against sustainability thresholds. It hasand culture (Eurostat, 2009). Health and social services, been methodologically criticised (Best et al., 2008; Vaneducation services, and public administration and den Bergh and Verbruggen, 1999; Fiala, 2008; Lenzen anddefence services together consume nearly 90 % of public Murray, 2001; Wiedmann and Lenzen, 2007) and is underexpenditure. a continuous process of improvement to strengthen some methodological weaknesses such as its limited scope, excluding key impacts such as toxicity, non‑renewable2.2 Current European consumption resource use, eutrophication and ecosystem degradation, patterns have high and its lack of ability to allow for improvements in land environmental impacts productivity (Kitzes et al., 2009a; Kitzes et al., 2009b). Nevertheless, the benchmarking option gives it a roleMany of the key environmental pressures created directly in communicating over-consumption (Wiedmannwithin Europe during the extraction of resources and and Barrett, 2010) and for measuring environmentalthe production and use of goods and services are closely sustainability if used in combination with othermonitored and well documented, for example through the indicators (Best et al., 2008). The EEAs simplifiedcollation of national emissions inventories. Methodologies accounting method, focused on ecosystems, seeks to(2) Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.(3) Standardised in terms of purchasing power parity. The European environment | State and outlook 2010 9
Thematic assessment | Consumption and the environment Figure 2.1 Development of ecological footprint and available biocapacity per capita in EEA member countries Global hectares per person Global hectares per person 5 5 4 4 3 3 2 2 1 1 0 0 61 65 70 75 80 85 90 95 00 05 61 65 70 75 80 85 90 95 00 05 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 20 20 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 20 20 Ecological footprint (gha/per person) Carbon footprint (gha/per person) Biocapacity (gha/per person) Food, fiber, timber and built footprint (gha/per person) Source: Global Footprint Network, 2009a. strengthen footprint calculations for Europe and make than double both the average global biocapacity of them more operational for EU environment and sectoral 1.8 global ha/person and the available biocapacity policies, currently a major weakness of the EF work. within the territory of the EEA member countries of 2.1 global ha/person. The EF translates a few of the global pressures caused directly and indirectly by a countrys consumption into This suggests that current European consumption and direct and virtual land use worldwide (4). A nation or a production patterns could not be transferred to the rest regions footprint can be benchmarked against the area of of the world without overstretching global ecosystem land, or biocapacity available nationally and globally per services. Moreover, Europes footprint continues to rise person, giving a useful indication of the extent to which its while the available biocapacity per person both in Europe consumption is environmentally sustainable (Wackernagel and globally is shrinking due to population growth and and Rees, 1996). The biocapacity of a given piece of land is the degradation of ecosystems. a function of its physical area, a factor that takes account of the type of land cover, and a yield factor varying Economic growth in Europe and other OECD countries according to local conditions. has brought significant social gains. However, these have come hand in hand with a high demand for natural The global average EF was estimated at 2.6 global ha per resources. Under current development pathways no person in 2006 compared to an average available global country has so far managed to maintain sufficient levels of biocapacity of 1.8 global ha/person (Global Footprint human development while keeping resource consumption Network, 2009a). In other words we are already using within ecological limits (see Figure 2.2). more of the worlds resources than can be renewed — termed global overshoot. Environmental degradation Achieving a high level of human development without due to over-use of natural resources is likely to lead to exceeding ecological limits requires the development serious consequences for human well-being and health of alternative ways of providing for social, health and (Millenium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005; EEA, 2010). educational needs that are less resource-intensive and less environmentally damaging. It should be noted By 2006, the EF of the average resident of EEA member that well-being is not necessarily linked to material countries — 4.5 global ha/person — was already more wealth once basic needs are covered. In recognition of (4) This includes direct land use in the country for urban areas and roads, land used indirectly globally for the production of food, fiber, timber, energy consumed in the country, and finally virtual land in the form of average forest that would be required to absorb CO2 emissions from the countrys use of fossil fuels thus avoiding accumulation in the atmosphere.10 The European environment | State and outlook 2010
Thematic assessment | Consumption and the environmentFigure 2.2 Human Development Index and ecological footprint Ecological footprint (global hectares per person) African countries 12 12 UNDP threshold for high human development Asian countries European countries 10 Latin American and Caribbean countries 10 North American countries Oceanian countries 8 8 6 6 World average biocapacity per person in 1961 (This must also include the needs of wild species) 4 4 World average biocapacity per person in 2006 2 2 High human development within the Earths limits 0 0.2 0.4 0.6 0.8 1.0 United Nations Human Development Index0Note: Both HDI and EF data refer to 2006.Source: Global Footprint Network, 2009b.this, the European Commission is committed to taking caused by consumption in EU Member States are directlyleadership in developing and making use of alternative emitted by households for heating, cooking and theand complementary indicators to gross domestic product use of private cars. The majority are emitted during the(GDP) as a measure of social progress (EC, 2009). production of consumed goods and services, including electricity.2.3 The unseen trade in Moreover, in the global economy, where goods are environmental pressures increasingly produced and traded worldwide, a significant share of the environmental pressures associated with aOnly a relative minor part of environmental pressures European countrys consumption are felt outside nationalcaused by a countrys consumption are emitted directly by borders, not only in other EU Member States but alsoconsumers. For example, only 10–30 % of CO2-emissions elsewhere in the world. Although indirectly caused by(5) Embodied pressures refers to pressures which have taken place along the full production chain of a product from material extraction to sale to the consumer. The European environment | State and outlook 2010 11
Thematic assessment | Consumption and the environment European consumption, these pressures are less visible to Similarly, while direct material resource use in Europe European policy makers. has stabilised, there are indications that indirect resource use and associated pressures caused by European Multiregional input/output models can be used to estimate consumption are on the increase (EEA, 2005). The environmental pressures embodied in trade between total material consumption (TMC) for Germany, that global regions and individual countries. For EU Member includes direct and indirect material extraction caused States on average, 40 % of total CO2 emissions caused by by consumption, fell during the first half of the 1990s national consumption were found to be embodied in goods but has been rising since then, increasing from 69 to imported from both within the EU and from the rest of 74 tonnes per person between 1996 and 2004 (Schulz and the world (Figure 2.3). The figure rises to over 50 % for Bringezu, 2008). Austria showed a 5 % increase in direct some smaller countries including Austria, Belgium, the and indirect material use — measured as Raw Material Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden. Peters and Hertwich Consumption (RMC), excluding unused extraction and (2008) estimate that typically half of embedded CO2 in waste — caused by consumption between 1995 and 2005 imports to EU Member States are associated with goods (Schaffartzik et al., 2008). coming from outside Europe. This virtual trade of environmental pressures is not Due to increasing international trade the shares of necessarily a problem. It merely demonstrates that non‑domestic emissions in the carbon footprints of a different set of measures can be used to reduce EU Member States are likely to be on the increase. In the consumption-caused emissions than may have been cases where imports are sourced increasingly in countries adopted to tackle emissions from domestic industry. with typically less eco-efficient industrial production processes and more impact‑intensive energy mixes than EU Member States (Rørmose et al., 2009) increasing trade 2.4 Environmental pressures might push up carbon footprints of EU countries. caused by different consumption categories Helm et al. (2007), for example, estimated that the GHG emissions associated with consumption in the United The EEA has estimated the environmental pressures Kingdom increased by 19 % between 1990 and 2003. caused by consumption in nine EU Member States (6) Figure 2.3 CO2 emissions caused by consumption in 26 EU Member States, 2004 CO2 emissions (tonnes per person) 18 16 14 12 10 8 6 4 2 0 ria m l Sl nia Sl kia Sp a Sw n Ki den m Bu m ec Cyp a s en ic Es ark Fi ia Fr d ce re y un e Ir ry d y th ia a he ta Po ds nd at for Ro ga ru an al ec i ni i an an ai bl en ar n tv do iu al ga es an n la st a It u ua a to m pu r ge rla m e nl el La M lg lg ov ov rt ng Au G Be er Re Po be era St H Li D G et em v h d M A N te Cz ni U EU Emissions in other countries (embodied in imports for domestic consumption) Domestic emissions (from households and from national production of goods for domestic consumption) Note: CO2 emissions in other countries include emissions in other EU Member States resulting from internal EU trade. Source: Davis and Cadeira, 2010. (6) Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden.12 The European environment | State and outlook 2010
Thematic assessment | Consumption and the environment Box 2.1 Consumption and chemicals There is growing concern about the potential human health and environmental impacts of chemicals in consumer products, in particular persistent and bio-accumulative organic compounds, endocrine-disrupting chemicals and heavy metals used in plastics, lubricants, textiles, cosmetics, dyestuffs, flame retardants, wood preservatives, electronic goods, and food packaging. Exposure to these chemicals is thought to be linked with declining sperm counts, genital malformations, impaired neural development and sexual behaviour, obesity, and cancer. Many of these chemicals leach easily from the products and can be found in the environment — in ambient (urban) air, indoor dust, wastewater, sludge — in some cases at levels high enough to be of health concern (Fisher et al., 2006). Some are highly persistent in the environment where they may undergo further transformation. For example, it has recently been shown that the flame retardant polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDE) exposed to wastewater treatment can generate dioxins (Betts, 2009 — orig. Steen et al., 2009). Widely-used plasticisers such as phthalates and bisphenol A; perfluorinated chemicals used in a variety of commercial applications as water, oil, soil and grease repellents; and brominated flame retardants are most often discussed in this context due to their suspected health effects and ubiquitous presence in the environment. A matter of particular concern is exposure to a mixture of low levels of chemical compounds that may exert synergistic effects, especially in unborn and very young, vulnerable children (ULSOP, 2009).representing 268 out of Europes 501 million people more important, for example tourism for degradation(Eurostat, 2010) and allocated them to final consumption of coastal habitats, chemicals in consumer productscategories. The estimates were made using a single for health impacts and eco-toxicological impacts (seeregion input-output model. Box 2.1).The majority of four key environmental pressures Pressures caused directly and indirectly along thecaused by private and public consumption (7) can be production chain of consumed goods and services plusallocated to the consumption of food and drink, housing direct pressures created during private consumption canand infrastructure, and mobility. These three broad be allocated to 12 broad categories of private householdconsumption areas are estimated to have contributed consumption as defined under the Classification of68 % of GHG emissions, 73 % of acidifying emissions, Individual Consumption according to Purpose (COICOP)69 % of tropospheric ozone precursor emissions and 64 % nomenclature used by Eurostat. When pressures causedof the direct and indirect material input caused globally by private consumption are allocated to these 12 mainby consumption in 2005 in the nine countries (EEA areas, food, housing and mobility dominate, followed byand ETC/SCP, 2010; ETC/SCP, 2009). The same critical furnishings and household equipment (Figure 2.4).consumption areas have been identified in other keystudies (for example, JRC/IPTS, 2006). The dominance of the first three is partly due to their also being the three private consumption categories in the EU‑27It should be noted that the single region methodology with highest expenditure (Eurostat, 2009a). However, foodused for these calculations assumes that imported goods and mobility, and to a lesser extent housing, are also theare produced with the same resource inputs and emissions areas of private expenditure with the greatest pressuresper unit output as those produced domestically. For for each euro spent (Figure 2.5). These three areas areexample, agricultural products imported to Sweden are addressed in more detail in Chapters 4–6 of this assessment.assumed to have emitted the same volume of GHGs as if Chapter 5 on housing also covers furnishings andthey had been produced in Sweden. This assumption will household equipment. A fourth area, tourism is consideredconsiderably underestimate GHGs embedded in imports in Chapter 7 because of its fast growing contribution tofrom countries with less efficient production processes environmental pressures from consumption. The pressures(see Rørmose et al., 2009, for Denmark) and thus affect caused by public consumption, meanwhile, can be partiallyestimates for consumption-based footprints of countries. tackled through green public procurement. This is looked atHowever, the share of pressures allocated to different in more detail in Chapter 8.consumption categories is expected to be much lessaffected. Decoupling environmental pressures from growth in private consumption can be achieved by reducing theFor other environmental pressure categories not covered pressure intensities within individual consumptionby these analyses, for example, land degradation, other categories — through improvements in housing energyconsumption areas might also be as relevant or even efficiency, switching transport expenditure from private(7) Including fixed capital formation — investments in machinery, roads, water and sewage networks and other infrastructure. The European environment | State and outlook 2010 13
Thematic assessment | Consumption and the environment Figure 2.4 Direct and indirect global pressures caused by private (household) consumption distributed by consumption (COICOP) category, in selected EU Member States, 2005 Greenhouse gas emissions Acidifying emissions 1.3 % 1.1 % 1.6 % 0.7 % 0.6 % 1.3 % 1.7 % 0.2 % 1.2 % 0.4 % 1.8 % 0.2 % 1.4 % 0.1 % 4.1 % 6.4 % 14.3 % 11.6 % 35.2 % 9.4 % 21.4 % 17.2 % 42.3 % 24.5 % Tropospheric ozone precursor emissions Material use 1.5 % 1.0 % 1.8 % 0.8 % 1.5 % 0.7 % 1.5 % 0.2 % 1.8 % 0.4 % 1.6 % 0.1 % 2.1 % 0.2 % 3.5 % 5.7 % 23.7 % 19.3 % 11.1 % 16.6 % 17.4 % 21.7 % 37.6 % 28.2 % Housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels Restaurants and hotels Health Transport Recreation and culture Communication Food and non-alcoholic beverages Miscellaneous goods and services Tobacco and narcotics Furnishings, household equipment and routine maintenance Clothing and footwear Education Notes: The input/output analysis of NAMEA tables gave estimates of pressures created along the production chains of finally consumed products from 36 individual economic sectors. These were then allocated to the 12 COICOP household consumption areas using a simplified transformation matrix developed by the EEA- ETC/SCP. The pressures allocated to these categories do not include pressures created by public (government) consumption or caused by gross capital formation — the building of roads, water and sewage networks serving households. Source: EEA and ETC/SCP, 2010. cars to public transport, or a shift from spending on categories such as education, communication, or quantity to quality in food, furniture, clothing, etc. recreation and culture — except recreation activities involving intensive use of transport. However, the large differences in environmental pressure intensities found between private expenditure categories Consumption trends appear to have moved modestly (Figure 2.5) highlights a second potential for reducing in the right direction over recent years. Two of the less or decoupling environmental pressures from growth in pressure-intensive categories, communication, and consumption: that of channelling additional expenditure recreation and culture, were the two fastest-growing of growing incomes towards low pressure consumption private expenditure categories in the EU‑27 Member States14 The European environment | State and outlook 2010
Thematic assessment | Consumption and the environmentFigure 2.5 Relative environmental pressure intensities — indexed pressure caused per euro of spending — of private consumption categories in nine EU Member States *, 2005Pressure intensity relative to average across all consumption categories5.04.54.03.53.02.52.01.51.00.50.0 t s el , ls s re r lth n n us d ic s fu y or ea ge ic io io te rv od r icit ho n ltu s e es ea ot sp at at e ta w ra ho se o rc cu he tr ot H ic uc an d sg ve th en ot ec na un d fo Ed Tr d be an of pm an ou d el an m d d an ne an d m an , s ce ui er n nt an Co tio lla an eq at ng o ra cc od ce ea w au hi en ld ba is Fo , ot s cr nt o st ng ga M ai eh To Re Cl Re si m s e ou ou in h H ut s, ro ng hi is rn Fu Greenhouse gases Acidifying emissions Tropospheric ozone precursors Material consumptionNote: * Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Sweden.Source: EEA and ETC/SCP, 2010.between 1995 and 2006, increasing by 10.2 % and 4.4 % can lead to overestimates of the levels of decouplingrespectively per year (Eurostat, 2009). However, evidence of pressures from growth in consumption, and resultsfrom the EEAs NAMEA-based analysis suggests that may therefore differ from findings in other studies (forgains made through such shifts in consumption spending example, Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency,are relatively modest compared to gains made from 2007).improving eco-efficiencies within individual consumptioncategories (Figure 2.6). Similar results were found by More rapid decoupling of GHG emissions and materialBaicocchi and Minx (2010) for the United Kingdom consumption from consumption expenditure is requiredbetween 1992 and 2004. if absolute pressures are to be reduced significantly in the foreseeable future. This will require more eco‑efficientWhere decoupling of global GHG emissions and material production of goods, fewer toxic products, moreuse from growth in consumption was achieved, it resulted, resource‑efficient appliances, buildings and transportin most cases, primarily from eco-efficiency improvements systems, but also widespread fundamental changes in thein production chains, energy efficiency improvements, or type of goods and services we buy.shifts in fuel use. Shifts in spending from more intensiveto less intensive consumption categories, for example, Last but not least, current consumption patterns do notfrom mobility to communication, have contributed only impact the environment, they can also have negativeto decoupling to a limited extent. As noted earlier, impacts on health, as concerns about obesity illustratesassumptions concerning pressures embodied in imports (Box 2.2). The European environment | State and outlook 2010 15
Thematic assessment | Consumption and the environment Figure 2.6 Changes in GHG emissions (1995–2005) and material use (2000–2005) caused by national consumption and contributing factors in selected EU Member States Globally induced GHG emissions (tonnes CO2-equivalent per person) 3 2 1 0 –1 –2 –3 –4 –5 –6 Changes in GHG emissions Contribution from growth in Contribution from changes in Contribution from changes in 1995–2005 consumption domestic consumption-mix eco-efficiency Globally induced direct material input (tonnes per person) 3 2 1 0 –1 –2 –3 –4 Changes in material use Contribution from growth in Contribution from changes in Contribution from changes in 2000–2005 consumption domestic consumption-mix eco-efficiency Austria Denmark France Germany Italy Netherlands Portugal Sweden Note: The left-hand set of bars in each graph show how per-person pressures have developed over the given time interval. The next set of bars indicate how the pressures would have developed over the same period if they were linked to economic growth only. The two sets of bars can be compared to see if decoupling has occurred. For example, the Netherlands showed strongest decoupling in GHG emissions 1995–2005, while Italy showed very little decoupling. The right-hand two pairs of bars demonstrate the extent to which shifts in consumption patterns and improvements in eco- efficiency in the provision of goods and services have contributed to the observed decoupling. Source: EEA and ETC/SCP, 2010. Box 2.2 Health impacts of unsustainable consumption patterns: obesity Current consumption patterns of a large part of the European population, especially in terms of food and mobility, are linked to several health risks, with overweight and obesity issues being of greatest concern because they are linked to serious health problems including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, some types of cancer and reduced life expectancy. Although overweight has many and complex determinants, increasing calorie intake, coupled with a more sedentary lifestyle, is the root of the problem. More than 53 % of the EU population are estimated to be overweight (IASO, 2008), and the numbers are increasing (WHO, 2008). Excessive intake of high-energy food, often cheaper, heavily advertised and more easily available than more healthy food, plays an important role. Although not all healthy food has low environmental impacts and vice versa, several dietary recommendations, such as a higher proportion of cereals, potatoes, vegetables and fruit in diets, and less meat, are beneficial both to human health and to the environment (Figure 4.2). Higher calorie intakes combined with sedentary lifestyles do not only have adverse health effects but also mean that more food has to be produced, resulting in higher life-cycle environmental impacts than diets based on recommended healthy calorie intakes. Insufficient physical activity is another very relevant factor for overweight, obesity, and their related health problems. In addition to individual behaviour/life style-related choices, physical activity depends on many conditions, including mobility patterns, access to walkable neighbourhoods, safe green areas, as well as infrastructure, promoting physical activity. Overweight people report that they walk less (Eurostat, 2006) and tend to live in low-density areas and with a higher dependency on car-based transport, although the nature of this association is highly complex (Scottish Government, 2008; Eid et al., 2007).16 The European environment | State and outlook 2010
Thematic assessment | Consumption and the environment2.5 Low-pressure households Figure 2.7 Key differences between — a good example of more equal income low and high environmentally sustainable GHG emitting households in Switzerland consumption?The potential for reducing environmental pressures Relative to median GHG emitting household (median greenhouse gas household = 1)through behavioural change can to a certain extent beidentified by analysing differences in the behaviour 3of households within a single community or country.A number of such studies have been carried out in 3Europe, for example, Girod and de Haan (2009);Lähteenoja et al. (2008); Brand and Boardman(2008); Vringer and Blok (1995) and OFEV (2006). All 2these studies found large differences between theenvironmental pressures caused by households. 2For example, Brand and Boardman (2008) found that 110 % of United Kingdom households were responsiblefor 43 % of total GHG emissions from mobility. Kotakorpiet al. (2008) found nearly a factor 10 difference in direct 1and indirect material use caused by the most and leastimpactful of 26 households studied in Finland. 0 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10A larger-scale Swiss study of 14 000 households found Household decile groups from lowest tothat even after adjusting for income differences, highest greenhouse gas emitting householdsGHG emissions per person varied by a factor of 4,ranging between 60 % and 170 % of the value for the Household GHG emissionsmean household (Figure 2.7). Vringer and Blok (1995) Living space (m2)also found large differences in energy use between Dutch Renewable heating (green heating)households of the same income level. Car use (pkm) Single family houseThe Finnish and the Swiss studies show that households Note: The households are grouped according to theirthat cause low environmental pressures tend to live in emission of greenhouse gases. The 10 % of households with highest GHG emissions (group 10)urban areas, use public transport rather than private cars, also had the highest car use, the highest share ofuse renewable energy for heating, have smaller living single family houses, the largest living space per person and the lowest use of green heating (districtspace per person, live in apartments rather than single heating or renewables).family houses, and eat less meat and more organic food. Source: Girod and de Haan, 2009.Importantly, low-emitting households spend more onleisure activities and are willing to pay more for qualityrather than quantity in the goods they buy. The fact that The types of consumption behaviour shown bythe low-emitting households tend to lie in urban areas low‑pressure households in these studies could providedoes not mean that urban households on average are a good example for helping shape future consumptionlower emitters than rural ones. Rather the infrastructure patterns. The potential for reductions in pressures causedin urban areas more readily allows for reduced carbon by consumption would be even higher than indicatedlifestyles by engaged citizens. by the variations between current households when combined with technological advances such as improvedSome of the characteristics of low-emitting households efficiency of the housing stock, increasing share ofin the studies — use of public transport, living in renewable electricity and improved fuel efficiency ofapartments, green heating, etc. — are only available in vehicles.dense urban areas where this kind of infrastructure iseconomically viable. However, a study of the behaviour Such findings showing large variations in behaviourand GHG emissions of urban households in the city of across society demonstrate the need for focussed policiesYork, United Kingdom, showed that while those living tailor-made for different social groups. A first stage inin city centres made least use of cars, they were also the tailoring responses to enable greener consumption willhouseholds with the highest emissions related to air be to gain an understanding of the key factors shapingtravel (Haq and Owen, 2009). consumption behaviour. These are examined in Chapter 3. The European environment | State and outlook 2010 17
Thematic assessment | Consumption and the environment 3 Understanding what shapes current and potential future consumption Private consumption is shaped by an array of complex non‑renewable resources in response to global increases and interrelated factors, including demographics; income in demand, and rising food prices (see Chapter 4). These and prices; trade, globalisation and technologies; supply resource price increases were alleviated by the economic of goods and services and how they are marketed; downturn but could well reappear when a period of stable information and transparency on products and services; economic growth returns. policies; housing and infrastructure, as well as social and psychological factors such as habits, culture and taste Rather than growth being a driver of future consumption (Mont and Power, 2010; Power and Mont, 2010). patterns, the potential for growth may in future depend to an increasing extent on how we consume. The economic Some of those factors are very well understood by policy system is increasingly being recognised as being bounded makers — in particular income and prices, while others, by the limits of the ecological system and is heavily such as habits and culture, are typically less understood. dependent on the services that ecosystems deliver to the Future trends in European consumption, and the resulting economy (TEEB, 2008). environmental impacts, will depend on how these many factors develop. Policies at all levels, not only those directed The household savings rate is a key influence on the at consumption, also influence consumption behaviour. extent to which income is translated into material These are dealt with in Chapter 8. consumption; the savings rate in the EU rose by nearly 3 percentage‑points during late 2008 and 2009, and To develop effective policy responses to limit negative started to fall again as consumer confidence increased environmental pressures and impacts from private in the last quarter of 2009 (EC, 2010b). In the longer consumption, there is a need for a better understanding of term, the ageing population could lead to a fall in the the many complex factors that shape peoples consumption household savings rate, as older people tend to save less behaviour (PSI, 2006). This chapter provides an overview of than people of working age. the main factors, including how they relate to one another, as well as some possible future developments. The relevance of prices for consumer decisions means that, generally, consumers demand more of any product if the price goes down and less if the price increases. The 3.1 Economic influences on degree of change in demand resulting from a variation consumption in price depends on the price elasticity of that particular product or service. For example, price elasticities for basic The most important factor influencing consumption food items such as bread, milk and eggs are lower than for patterns is the level of disposable income at the individual restaurant meals, as going to a restaurant is much easier to household level (OECD, 2008a). The growth path avoid than purchasing basic food. hypothesis, implying an ever-growing GDP, can be identified as one of the driving forces behind consumption However, the effects of resource use on the environment dynamics. Recent baseline projections published by the EC and society, such as costs of cleaning up pollution or — which take into account the current economic downturn climate change mitigation, are in many cases not included — assume that GDP in the EU‑27 will grow again between in the prices of goods and services. Instead the costs 2010 and 2020 but that this would not compensate GDP associated with negative effects are paid for by the wider losses from the downturn compared to earlier projections society. This lack of internalisation of external effects — (EC, 2010a). However, economic forecasts are very the costs to society of environmental degradation — in the uncertain (see also EEA, 2010b) and recent developments prices of products and services is a market failure driving show that steady growth cannot be taken for granted. consumption patterns based on high resource use. Immediately before the financial and fiscal crises began Economic instruments, such as taxes, can be applied in 2008, other major global economic trends had been to overcome such market failures to ensure that prices making their mark on European consumption patterns. include economic, social and environmental costs (see also These included steeply rising prices of oil, steel and other Chapter 8). Carrying out such adjustments is one of the18 The European environment | State and outlook 2010