Household carbon footprints did not change significantly in Japan’s first state of emergency
PICTURE: RESEARCHERS AT TOKYO UNIVERSITY ARE EXAMINING HOW LIFESTYLE CHANGES DURING THE EMERGENCY CONDITION 19 AFFECTED CONSUMPTION AND ASSOCIATED CARBON PRESSURES IN JAPANESE HOUSEHOLDS. THE CARBON FOOTPRINTS… show more CREDIT: PICTURE BY YIN LONG, FIRST PUBLISHED IN ONE EARTH DOI: 10.1016 / J.ONEEAR.2021.03.003
Despite the rapid and significant changes in consumption patterns in the first few months of the COVID-19 pandemic, Japanese households maintained their normal greenhouse gas emissions. The “anthropause” – the reduction in human activity due to the pandemic – made headlines last summer, but factory downtimes and broken global supply chains did not lead to the introduction of green lifestyles for the average household.
“During the early COVID-19 phase, we could quickly see changes in lifestyle around us. That is why we decided to study the environmental impact of these lifestyle changes. Some other research during this period has shown that greenhouse gas emissions on the production side have decreased. However, when assessing the emissions on the consumer side, we found that they did not change that much from 2015 to 2019, ”said project assistant Professor Yin Long from the Institute for Future Initiatives at the University of Tokyo. Long is the lead author of the research recently published in One Earth.
Experts say that half of a country’s carbon footprint worldwide is due to the consumption of goods and services by individual households. A carbon footprint is a measure of the direct and indirect greenhouse gas emissions associated with growing, manufacturing and transporting the food, goods, utilities and services we use.
In this study, the researchers looked at approximately 500 consumer products and then tracked the carbon emissions that are present in all related goods and services. Eating out, groceries, clothing, electronics, entertainment, gasoline for vehicles and household appliances were included.
“The real beauty is the consistency of long-term data collection in these government statistics, even during the COVID-19 period, which allows us to compare them to historical patterns,” said Associate Professor Alexandros Gasparatos, an expert on ecological economics who headed it the study. Gasparatos has a double appointment at the University of Tokyo and the United Nations University in Tokyo.
The monthly carbon footprints of household consumption for the period January to May 2020 were compared with the carbon footprints for the same months over the past five years. In Japan, COVID-19 diagnoses increased in February and the first nationwide COVID-19 state of emergency was declared from mid-April to mid-May 2020.
The research team’s analyzes revealed that the carbon footprint of all households in 2020, both overall and across different age groups, remained broadly in the range from 2015 to 2019.
The carbon footprint of food-related emissions decreased in the state of emergency, but emissions from food increased, particularly due to the purchase of more meat, eggs and dairy products. Emissions related to clothing and entertainment fell sharply in the state of emergency but recovered quickly when the emergency measure ended.
“This type of natural experiment shows us that the very rapid and consistent change in lifestyle in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic did not result in significant and persistent changes in household carbon footprints,” Gasparatos said.
The non-binding state of emergency of the national and local governments in Japan urged people to restrict social gatherings, eat in groups, and not necessarily travel between prefectures. Compared to legal bans in other countries, researchers say Japan’s minimum impositions are likely a better model for the lifestyle changes that green households could voluntarily make.
“If we look at lifestyle change as a strategy for decarbonization, our results suggest that this may not automatically translate into environmental benefits. It will take a lot of effort and public education focused on the most emission-intensive household needs, such as: B. the use of private cars as well as space and water heating, ”said Gasparatos.
“We saw factories shut down when COVID-19 happened, but consumer demand stayed the same so factories reopened to meet those demands. As set out in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, consumers and producers should share responsibility for achieving a sustainable lifestyle, ”Long said.
Yin Long, Dabo Guan, Keiichiro Kanemoto and Alexandros Gasparatos. April 15, 2021. Negligible impact of early COVID-19 restriction on household carbon footprint in Japan. One earth. DOI: 10.1016 / j.oneear.2021.03.003
Gasparatos Lab: http://www.gasparatos-lab.org/
Institute for Future Initiatives (IFI): https://ifi.u-tokyo.ac.jp/