People In Southwest England Have The Worst Carbon Footprints


Jonathan O'Callaghan

Senior Staff Writer

Per person emissions in the EU. Diana Ivanova et al 2017 Environ. Res. Lett. 12 054013

Researchers have calculated which parts of Europe are most likely to cause climate change – and it’s grim reading for those in the southwest UK.

Published in the journal Environmental Research Letters, the team led by Diana Ivanova from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology looked at carbon emissions across the EU. The findings reveal quite a disparity between Western and Eastern Europe.


“This study develops an inventory of carbon footprints associated with household consumption for 177 regions in 27 EU countries, thus, making a key contribution for the incorporation of consumption-based accounting into local decision-making,” the authors wrote in their paper.

Per person, the UK is far and away one of the biggest emitters. In the southwest in particular, people were responsible for emissions more than double other parts of Europe. Only parts of Greece, Germany, and Finland came close.

The lowest average carbon footprints mostly came from Eastern Europe. Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria all scored low.

However, when the researchers examined the total carbon footprint in each region (not per person), things looked a bit different. Parts of Spain, Italy, and central Europe scored highly, while most of the UK was now comparatively lower.


This map shows that some regions are responsible for a large share of a country’s emissions. As Carbon Brief points out, for example, the North Rhine-Westphalia and Bavaria in Germany accounted for 40 percent of Germany’s emissions.

Per person emissions in the EU. Diana Ivanova et al 2017 Environ. Res. Lett. 12 054013

The team made their findings by examining different emissions in each country. Transport emissions were found to account for 30 percent of carbon footprints, the largest source of emissions, while food also scored highly at 17 percent. Clothing came in low, meanwhile, at just 4 percent.

“These interregional differences within countries have implications for the regions’ impact mitigation potential and, as some would argue, for their responsibility to contribute to national mitigation goals,” Ivanova told Carbon Brief

“We can essentially trace back all the environmental impacts that are embodied in, say, the consumption of cheese by an average Austrian.”


This research might make for interesting reading as the EU tries to reduce its emissions. Socio-economic factors such as income and education were found to drive variation by up to 70 percent in some regions. As such, more efforts may be needed in these areas to lessen carbon footprints.

By 2020, the EU hopes to cut its emissions by 20 percent below 1990 levels. In the UK, they’re aiming for 80 percent by 2050. So all of this research could be useful in reaching those goals.


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