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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Consumption Based Greenhouse Gas Inventory of San Francisco from 1990 to 2015


This study developed a consumption-based emissions inventory (CBEI) for the City and County of San Francisco, California from 1990 to 2015. CBEIs allocate all greenhouse gas emissions throughout product and service supply chains to final demand, namely households and governments. We find that average household carbon footprints in San Francisco decreased by 17% over the 25-year study period, and were 21% lower than the national average by 2015. Low rates of motor vehicle usage, small home (building) size, small household size, high prevalence of renters, population density, moderate climate, and relatively lowcarbon electricity all contributed to lower consumption-based emissions. These factors outweighed the countervailing effects of income and education, which tend to increase consumption and associated carbon footprints. Despite progress at reducing emissions on a per household basis, on aggregate, the total city-wide CBEI was only 2% lower in 2015 compared to 1990 levels. This reality reflects population pressures and the challenge of reducing emissions that depend on global supply chains. Traditional GHG inventories tend to neglect the effect of consumer demand on supply chain emissions, thus underestimating a city’s total impact. San Francisco’s CBEI is 2.5 times larger than the city’s traditional, more limited inventory. Tracking of full consumption-based inventories over time should aid in the development of new targets, policies, programs, incentives, and communications based on the unique opportunities for responsible production and consumption within San Francisco.

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