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Regional carbon footprints of households: a German case study


Households are either directly or indirectly responsible for the highest share of global anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions. Hence, programs helping to improve human consumption habits have been identified as a comparatively cost-effective way to reduce household emissions significantly. Recently, various studies have determined strong regional differences in household carbon footprints, yet a case study for Germany has not been conducted. Local information and policies directed at household consumption in Germany thus devoid of any foundation. In this paper, we analyze the impact of different criteria such as location, income and size on household carbon footprints in Germany and demonstrate how the impact of GHG mitigation opportunities varies for different population segments. We use a multi-region input output hybrid LCA approach to developing a regionalized household carbon footprint calculator for Germany that considers 16 sub-national regions, 15 different household sizes, and eight different income and age categories. The model reveals substantial regional differences in magnitude and composition of household carbon footprints, essentially influenced by two criteria: income and size. The highest income household is found to emit 4.25 times as much CO2e than the lowest. We identify indirect emissions from consumption as the largest share of household carbon footprints, although this is subject to fluctuation based on household type. Due primarily to local differences in vehicle availability, income and nutrition, an average household in Baden-Wuerttemberg is found to have 25 % higher carbon footprint than its Mecklenburg-West Pomeranian counterpart. Based on the results of this study, we discuss policy options for household carbon mitigation in Germany.

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