Dutch consumers do not contribute to worldwide emission reduction of greenhouse gases

Greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused to meet the economic needs of Dutch consumers were nearly 6 percent lower in 2009 than in 1996, but the total amount of global greenhouse gas emissions as a result of Dutch consumption, the so-called carbon footprint, has not changed.

Production in non-OECD countries contributes disproportionately to worldwide pollution

During the production process of goods for the Dutch market, greenhouse gases are released. Dutch consumers do not only buy and use products manufactured in the Netherlands, but also goods made in other countries. Hence, GHG emissions in foreign countries are partly the result of the needs of Dutch consumers.

Non-OECD countries emit greenhouse gases during the production of goods intended for the Dutch market. The Netherlands imports clothes and electronic products from China. Since most production processes in China are not very environmentally friendly, the manufacturing of goods for the Dutch market causes high concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. The consumption of petroleum and natural gas imported from Russia also involves considerable GHG emissions.

Greenhouse gas balance Netherlands and other (groups of) countries, 2009

Greenhouse gas balance Netherlands and other (groups of) countries, 2009

The Netherlands emits greenhouse gases to meet the demands of the West European market

On the other hand, the Netherlands manufactures goods imported by other countries, e.g. flowers and chemical products. During the manufacturing process of these goods, a large amount of greenhouse gases is released into the atmosphere. The Netherlands exports many of these products to other European countries. The GHG emission balance with countries in Western Europe is often ‘positive’. The Netherlands produces more for the West European market than vice versa.

Carbon footprint Netherlands stable

By taking into account foreign GHG emissions, it is possible to calculate the amount of greenhouse gases released worldwide to meet the needs of Dutch consumers and the extent to which the needs of Dutch consumers contribute to the increased concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and – indirectly – to the climate problem.

Between 1996 and 2009, the emission of greenhouse gases in the Netherlands was reduced. At the same time, global GHG emissions caused by Dutch consumers’ demands for products remained stable. In spite of the emission reduction realised by the Netherlands, the Dutch carbon footprint did not change, because products intended for the Dutch market generated higher GHG emissions.

Greenhouse gas emissions Dutch economy and consumption

Greenhouse gas emissions Dutch economy and consumption

Roel Delahaye, Bram Edens and Sjoerd Schenau

Bron: Environmental accounts of the Netherlands 2009, chapter 8: Greenhouse gas emission trade balance for the Netherlands