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The UK’s Emissions and Employment Footprints: Exploring the Trade-Offs

Sustainability Research Institute, School of Earth and Environment, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Sustainability 2017, 9(7), 1242;
Received: 29 April 2017 / Revised: 30 June 2017 / Accepted: 7 July 2017 / Published: 16 July 2017
(This article belongs to the Section Economic and Business Aspects of Sustainability)
During the last decades, the UK economy has increasingly relied on foreign markets to fulfil its material needs, becoming a net importer of both emissions and employment. While the emissions footprint reflects the pressure that consumption exerts on the planet’s climate, the labour footprint represents the employment that is created across the globe associated with the demand for products and services. This paper has a two-fold objective. First, it focuses on analysing the behaviour over time, drivers, and sectoral and regional composition of both UK’s footprints. Second, it explores the relationship between both measures by estimating the elasticity between the growth of emissions and employment embodied in imports. The results show that around half of the emissions associated with UK consumption were generated outside its borders, while only 40% of total employment was domestic. This has important policy implications. Reducing UK’s imports can contribute to cut both its footprints, generating less emissions abroad and more employment opportunities within. However, cutting imports is challenging, since this would require a lengthy and difficult process of structural transformation. The UK could contribute to curb emissions outside its borders, while safeguarding development overseas, by offering increased support to emission-intensive trade partners in the form of technology transfer and financial aid. View Full-Text
Keywords: consumption-based emissions; employment; international trade; emissions footprint; labour footprint consumption-based emissions; employment; international trade; emissions footprint; labour footprint
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Sakai, M.; Owen, A.; Barrett, J. The UK’s Emissions and Employment Footprints: Exploring the Trade-Offs. Sustainability 2017, 9, 1242.

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