October 10, 2016

The policy implications of carbon footprints in relation to income

By Halina Brown, Clark University

Questions to guide discussions

  1. In many parts of the world, including Asia and South America, the middle classes are rapidly growing in relation to affluence. What are the implications for sustainable consumption in those countries and at a global scale?
  2. In this talk, the United States is given as the main example. However, the average carbon footprint worldwide per capita is much less than in the U.S. case. What are the implications of that?
  3. At what level of government could policy interventions work, do we need global, national or city-level measures?


Halina Szejnwald Brown is Professor of Environmental Science and Policy at Clark University, U.S.A, and a Fellow of Tellus Institute. Currently she teaches a graduate course on Sustainable Consumption and Production, and conducts research on the interface between culture, technology and policy in facilitating a transition beyond the current consumer society. Brown is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and of the International Society for Risk Analysis. She co-authored four books and many articles and book chapters. She holds a doctoral degree in chemistry from New York University.

Recommended readings

Weber, Christopher and Scott Matthews 2008. Quantifying the global and distributional aspects of American household carbon footprint. Ecological Economics 6 6: 3 7 9 – 3 9 1

Ummel, Kevin 2014.Who Pollutes? A Household-Level Database of America’s Greenhouse
Gas Footprint. CGD Working Paper 381, October 2014. Washington D.C.: Center for Global Development (www.cgdev.org/publication/who-pollutes-household-level-database-americasgreenhouse-gas-footprint-working-paper).

Chancel, Lukas and Thomas Picketty 2015. Carbon and inequality : from Kyoto to Paris : Trends in the global inequality of carbon emissions (1998-2013) & prospects for an equitable adaptation fund. Paris School of Economics Report, November 3, 2015. (piketty.pse.ens.fr/files/ChancelPiketty2015.pdf)

Kenner, Dario 2015. Inequality and overconsumption: The ecological footprint of the richest. Working paper #2015/2, November 2015. Global Sustainability Institute, Anglia Ruskin University.