Dutch GHG footprint larger in 2017

17/05/2018 15:00
© Hollandse Hoogte
Choices made by people in the Netherlands also affect people in other countries. For example, goods and services we import have been produced elsewhere. Locally, this creates jobs and income, but it also puts pressure on the environment and natural resources. Following a downward trend which started in 2008, initial estimates point to an increase in the greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint again last year, from 14.2 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalents per capita in 2016 to 15.4 tonnes in 2017. This is one of the indicators for the impact of Dutch prosperity abroad, as described in Statistics Netherlands’ (CBS) Monitor of Well-being.
Annual GHG emissions on Dutch territory (measured in accordance with IPCC guidelines) are falling steadily. Nevertheless, the Netherlands was still at the bottom of the EU ranking (24th) in terms of GHG emissions per capita in 2015. The target of emissions reduction has not been met either. In the Urgenda climate case of 24 June 2015, a Dutch court ruled that by 2020 emissions must be reduced by at least 25 percent from the level of 1990. In 2017, greenhouse gas emissions in the Netherlands were 13 percent lower than in 1990.

Emissions indirectly measured

Aside from GHG emissions on its own territory, the Netherlands’ domestic consumption also causes emissions indirectly abroad. Domestic consumption and consumption of imported goods cause GHG emissions abroad (‘elsewhere’) at the location of production. The Netherlands‘ greenhouse gas footprint measures greenhouse gas emissions that are a consequence of Dutch consumption. Greenhouse gases emitted during the production of imported goods are part of this footprint. On the other hand, Dutch industry also causes emissions which do not form part of this footprint as its production is destined for exports. Between 2008 and 2016, the Dutch GHG footprint declined from 18.6 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalents per capita to 14.2 metric tonnes, a fall of over 23 percent. In 2017, however, the national GHG footprint rose (by 8.1 percent) to 15.4 metric tonnes of CO2 equivalents per capita. The rise is attributable to an increase in emissions as a consequence of Dutch imports.

Increased imports of non-renewable resources

The Netherlands also has an impact on well-being in other countries where natural resources are concerned. Dutch imports include non-renewable resources which are used to produce goods and services, here or elsewhere. These imports lead to depletion of these resources abroad and therefore affect future well-being in the countries concerned. For example, Dutch imports of fossil fuels are continuously growing. In the period 2010-2017, imports of fossil fuels increased from 11.6 to 13.7 metric tonnes per capita. This put the Netherlands at the bottom of the EU ranking in terms of broad well-being ‘elsewhere’ in 2016.

As for imports of other raw materials, again the Netherlands often ranks very low in the EU, although it should be mentioned that these figures also include re-exports, which represent a large share of total Dutch trade. Re-exports are imported goods which are almost immediately exported after undergoing minimal processing in the Netherlands. However, even after adjusting for re-exports, the Netherlands is among the bottom ten countries in the EU.

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