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Tracking Environmental Impacts of Consumption: Linking OECD and Developing Countries to Alleviate Negative Consequences

Annual Call for Projects 2006


Globalisation and the related growth in trade provoke socio-economic as well as environmental consequences. There currently exists a need to shed new light on international responsibilities relating to the environmental impacts of consumption and related trade patterns. The relationship between consumers in developed countries and affected citizens in developing countries merits careful examination. This is all the more urgent due to the emergence of new challenges such as:

This project, supported by the Geneva International Academic Network (GIAN), aims at going beyond traditional environmental assessments, e.g. the United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) environmental assessments by analysing the links between current environmental degradation (air pollution and its impact) and the upstream leading causes (consumption and production systems) on a world basis. It will offer a systemic view of the regions particularly affected by trade patterns and facilitate identification of areas, sectors and products that would be appropriate for alleviation policies, e.g. allocation of foreign aid, development of fair trade. It will also develop a feasibility study to extend the “DNA approach” utilised by the clothes manufacturer Switcher, which traces industrial goods by assessing the direct and indirect environmental impacts of the textile production-consumption chain. By providing new information, this will raise awareness and promote more environment-friendly practices among producers and better-informed choices among consumers.

The project will build on reliable and interdisciplinary scientific research to develop a multi-region, multi-pollutant exchange model able to provide a global vision of the transfer of goods and atmospheric pollutants linked to the consumption of Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries. This new model will examine the current state of invironmental degradation due to atmospheric pollutants (sulphur, particles, dioxin), then it will identify the links between three different actors: the producers of the goods (emitters of pollution), the beneficiaries of the goods (consumers) and the actors who eventually cope with the pollution (either one of the trade partners or a third party).

The added value of the present project is its interdisciplinary nature linking three specific modules in a consistent way:

The following questions will be answered for one representative consumer of a selection of OECD countries:

  1. What is the magnitude of the emissions generated nationally and in foreign countries by the consumption of a representative consumer, based on a life cycle perspective (for the production, transport, consumption and disposal of goods)?
  2. Where do airborne pollutants transfer? Do they affect a third party? How important is their impact?
  3. What is the proportion of impacts suffered by a country due to its own consumption, its exports and as a pure recipient of pollutants?
  4. What is the balance of impacts induced and suffered by trade partners and third parties?
  5. What regions are most affected by OECD consumption and what are the concerned sectors and products?

The grant provided by the GIAN for this project totals SFr 204,400

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Project Team

Prof. Olivier Jolliet , Principal Member, Center for Risk Science and Communication , University of Michigan .

Mr Daniel Rüfenacht , Principal Member, Switcher SA .

Ms Shanna Shaked , Principal Member, University of Michigan .

Mr Michael Stanley-Jones , Principal Member, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) .

Mr Ramesh Ramaswamy , Associated Member, Resource Optimization Initiative (ROI) .

Related News

Related Conferences

Tracking Environmental Impacts of Consumption: International Society for Industrial Ecology Conference – University of Toronto - 17-20 June 2007; 16th International Input-Output Conference – Istanbul Technical University – 2-6 July 2007; 3rd International Conference on Life Cycle Management – University of Zurich, 27-29 August 2007
Globalisation and the related growth in trade provoke socio-economic as well as environmental changes. There currently...
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Research Output

Tracking Environmental Impacts of Consumption: Models
(available in English only)
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