So when it comes to counting those emissions, shouldn't the national burden be split up differently? The idea's not novel, but a new paper in Environmental Research Letters (via Mongabay) brings the issue to the fore.
The report authors use the example of Brazil, making the point that Brazil is the world's foremost exporter of both beef and soybeans -- both contributing to varying degrees to the nation's ongoing (if slowing) deforestation -- but the countries which consume these goods don't pay anything for the environmental damage, loss of biodiversity, and soaring carbon emissions caused when agriculture replaces rainforests. Choosing Right Emissions Allocation Crucial
Lead author David Zaks says that there is no one right way to proportion emissions between producer and consumer, but either blaming the consuming country or the producing country for the entirety of emissions isn't fair, nor particularly productive. But choosing the right allocation could help slow deforestation.
In his study, Zaks examined an even split for emissions allocation and argues that such a model would give the edge to those nations which don't simply expand area under cultivation -- thereby expanding land use conversion -- but rather would encourage greater yields on land which is already available.
Length of Depreciation Also Important
Another critical component is for how long emissions should be depreciated? If you share the burden for too-short a period time then consumers get off easy, but if you choose too long a timeframe the incentive to not just chop down more trees is weak. The paper suggest that a 20 year declining allocation to eliminate both these problems.
EU Responsible for Two-Thirds Brazil's Beef, One-Third Soy Emissions Since 1990
That means that during the 1990-2006 period studied, the EU would have been responsible for about 40 million metric tons of carbon emissions consumption of soy products (31% of total) and 79 million metric tons from beef consumption (62% of total).
For the wonkier readers (you've gotten this far...), here's the original study:
Producer and consumer responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions from agricultural production--a perspective from the Brazilian Amazon
photo: Bill McDavid via flickr.
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