Who emits most? An analysis of UK households' CO2 emissions and their association with socio-economic factors

Lead Research Organisation: University of Southampton
Department Name: School of Social Sciences

Abstract

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Description This project compared the distribution of CO2 emissions across UK households and the association between household characteristics and carbon dioxide emission for home energy, indirect, transport and total emissions. According to our estimate, UK households emitted an average of 20.18 tonnes of CO2 over 2006-9 to which indirect emissions contribute more than 50%.
Our results also show that different types of household emissions are indeed differently distributed across income and other social groups, including age, household size, presence of children, rural/urban, type of dwelling, gender, education, employment status, home ownership and ethnicity. Generally, transport emissions (flights and public transport in particular) are most unequally distributed, followed by indirect, total and home energy emissions. Relatively high proportions of less well-situated households (e.g. low education, workless, female-headed) also have high home energy emissions.
Furthermore, we find that household characteristics are associated differently to emissions in different areas. Quantile regression on high emissions indicated that, contrary to our expectation, rural location has a higher positive "effect" on home energy than on transport emissions. Female headed households have significantly lower transport, but significantly higher home energy emissions than male headed households at the high end of the emissions distribution. If we concentrate on poor households with high emissions only, worklessness has a strong negative association and high education a strong positive association with high transport emissions (results published in Büchs, M. & Schnepf, S. V. (2013) 'Who emits most? Associations between socio-economic factors and UK households' home energy, transport, indirect and total CO2 emissions', Ecological Economics 90: 114-123, which so far received 33 citations on the Web of Science, and 65 on Google scholar)..
All these findings are highly policy relevant as they help identify which emission areas could be targeted most effectively with minimal negative effects on vulnerable households. Modelling distributional implications showed that CO2 taxes have most regressive effects when levied on home energy emissions and least regressive effects if levied on transport. In fact, they were mildly progressive if only applied to flights. Equal per capita rebates reversed regressive effects, but least so for home energy. If allocations to children are included, households with children naturally benefitted but a range of less well-situated households were relatively worse off (published in Büchs, M., Bardsley, N. & Schnepf, S. (2014) 'Unequal emissions - unequal policy impacts: how do different areas of CO2 emissions compare? ', in T. Fitzpatrick (ed), International Handbook on Social Policy and the Environment. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar. pp. 62-92).

In addition to the originally stated objectives, we also conducted an in-depth examination of methodological choices for studies using expenditure data to estimate household emissions, an under-researched topic so far. First, we compared three different approaches to estimating emissions. We find that different methods generate significantly different results for several areas, particularly for transport emissions, and that converting household expenditure into emissions does not simply replicate findings from research on household expenditure (published in Buchs, M. & Schnepf, S. V. (2013) 'UK households' carbon footprint: a comparison of the association between household characteristics and emissions from home energy, transport and other goods and services'. IZA Discussion Paper No. 7204, Bonn: IZA, available from http://ftp.iza.org/dp7204.pdf). Second, we used data from the National Travel Survey to investigate the extent and implications of the infrequency of purchase problem. This showed that using expenditure rather than mileage data can lead to biases in estimated numbers of winners and losers from climate change mitigation policies due to the range extension that results from infrequency of purchase (Bardsley, N., Büchs, M. & Schnepf, S. V. (2016) 'Something from Nothing: Estimating Consumption Rates Using Propensity Scores, with Application to Emissions Reduction Policies, Discussion Paper No. 9707'. Bonn: IZA).
Exploitation Route Our results can be used by other researchers to advance modelling of the distribution of household emissions in the UK or other countries. They can also be used by policy makers and practitioners to design carbon mitigation and energy saving policies, bearing social justice and distributional implications in mind.
Sectors Communities and Social Services/Policy,Education,Government, Democracy and Justice

 
Description 1) Outputs from this project which were presented at an LCF user meeting in 2012 have helped to improve the way in which the ONS collects data for the Living Costs and Food Survey: expenditure on flights and electricity and gas pre-payments are now collected through the household survey rather than the two-week diary. The household survey now also includes a new question on the frequency of motor fuel purchases. These changes will considerably reduce the infrequency of purchase problem which affected work based on LCF data in previous survey rounds. This may also feed through to applications such as the RPI and CPI which are based on the LCF. 2) Our project made available the dataset that we created of estimated consumption-based UK household emissions 2006-2009 with variables for home energy, transport, other consumption and total emissions as well as 71 other sub-categories of emissions. The dataset is publicly accessible and can be merged with detailed information on household characteristics from the EFS/LCF as described in the user manual. It is of use not only to academics but also to public, third sector and private organisations working on household emissions and mitigation policies. The dataset has been applied for research on Personal Carbon Allowances by Martin Burgess, results published in Burgess, M. (2016) 'Personal carbon allowances: A revised model to alleviate distributional issues', Ecological Economics 130: 316-327.
First Year Of Impact 2012
Sector Government, Democracy and Justice
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Title Propensity Score Matching to estimate fuel use and distributional implications of climate mitigation policies 
Description The method consists in the construction of a matched group of purchasers to a group of survey respondents who make no purchase during the data collection window of a consumption survey. Using propensity score matching, the two groups are expected to have identical covariate structures. The same estimated propensity scores are then used to deflate the observed and inferred purchases, where the inferred purchases are those arising from the matching. This enables estimation of the distribution of consumption rates in datasets where many zeroes arise because of a short observation window. In the absence of the method, only a mean consumption rate can be inferred. 
Type Of Material Model of mechanisms or symptoms - human 
Year Produced 2016 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact None so far but potential interest from the Department of Transport to discuss/review National Travel Survey design 
URL http://ftp.iza.org/dp9707.pdf
 
Title UK household CO2 emissions 2006-2009 
Description The dataset contains CO2 emissions from 24446 UK households that were estimated based on their expenditure, using the Living Costs and Food and Expenditure and Food Surveys 2006-2009. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2013 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact So far no known direct impacts. 
URL http://discover.ukdataservice.ac.uk/catalogue/?sn=850727&type=Data%20catalogue
 
Description CSP launch event - Who bears the brunt? 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact This presentation summarises the Critical Social Policy article and was delivered at the issue launch event to a social policy audience. This presentation summarises the Critical Social Policy article and was delivered at the issue launch event to a social policy audience (26 May 2011).

This presentation summarises the Critical Social Policy article and was delivered at the issue launch event to a social policy audience.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Council of European Studies conference presentation - Justice implications of climate change mitigation policies 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact This presentation was made to a panel on climate change and social policy organised by Professor Ian Gough. It was attended by an international audience of social policy scholars and followed by questions and discussion (20 June 2011).

Further interactions with Ian Gough followed, e.g. an invitation to a research seminar, clarification of methodological questions.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
URL http://councilforeuropeanstudies.org/files/Conferences/CESConference_WebAccessible.pdf
 
Description Dissemination event - Royal Statistical Society London July 2012 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Type Of Presentation workshop facilitator
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact We organised this event to disseminate our results to a broad audience, including academics and representatives from government, the third sector and business. It was attended by around 50 people. The workshop included three presentations from our team, as well as three guest presentations, including Ben Anderson (Essex University), Ian Preseton (Centre for Sustainable Energy) and Ian Gough (LSE) (5 July 2012).

The ONS made changes to the way in which the Living Costs and Food survey records flights.
We received an invitation from the social science team at the Department of Energy and Climate Change to present our results to policy makers.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Dissemination event RSS - Can Climate Policies be fair presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Ca. 50 academics, policy makers and third sector representatives listened to the talk and asked questions afterwards (5 July 2012).

Following this and other presentations from this event we received an invitation by the Department of Energy and Climate Change to present our results at an internal seminar.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Dissemination event at the RSS - Methods presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact This event was attended by around 50 academics, policy makers and third sector representatives who engaged in the discussion (5 July 2012).

Representatives of the ONS who had attended the event suggested and implemented changes to the way in which the Living Costs and Food Survey records information on flights.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Dissemination event at the RSS - Who emits most talk 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact This presentation examines the association bewteen household emissions and household characteristics. We also explore methodological potential and limitations related to using the LCF/EFS for this research. It was part of our dissemination event at the Royal Statistical Society on 5 July 2012 which targeted a broad audience, including academics, policy makers and third sector representatives.

The social science team at the Department of Energy and Climate Change invited us to present our results at an internal seminar.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description ESDS Living Cost and Food Survey User Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact This event was attended by a broad audience of academics and practitioners who discussed experiences and issues around using the Living Costs and Food Survey. Our presentation was followed by a lively discussion (20 March 2012).

Following our (and possibly other's) recommendation, the ONS changed the way in which flight information is collected through the Living Costs and Food Survey.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description ESPAnet conference presentation - Green ways of financing the welfare state 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact The event was attended by an international audience of social policy scholars.

We were asked to contribute a chapter to a book by the Heinrich Boll Foundation in Germany on the potential for per capita carbon trading schemes to function as a basic income (17 September 2009).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description Green Party (Germany), Finance and Economics Working Group Seminar - Presentation on justice implications of climate policies 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/parliamentarians
Results and Impact This was an invited presentation to a seminar held by the German Green Party working group on Finance and Economics in Gelsenkirchen, 10 June 2009. A lively discussion and further interactions, e.g. on the publication of a book chapter followed.

We were invited to contribute a book chapter on the topic for a publication of the Heinrich Boell Stiftung.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2009
 
Description Joint Research Centre Seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Dr Nicholas Bardsley presented our work on using propensity score matching to address the infrequency of purchase problem which occurs in the estimation of household vehicle CO2 emissions from survey data (on mileage or fuel expenditure) to European Union practitioners and researchers at the EU Joint Research Centre seminar series, organised by the Econometrics and Statistics Unit, Ispra (Italy), 4 June 2015.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2015
 
Description Lecture - Climate change (mitigation) and inequality 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Undergraduate students
Results and Impact I prepared this lecture for one of our Curriculum Innovation Modules, Living with Environmental Change, which is offered to undergraduate students at all levels accross the University of Southampton. The students were engaged and asked a range of questions.

I was asked to contribute this lecture again to this module.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2013,2014
 
Description Presentation DECC seminar 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Policymakers/parliamentarians
Results and Impact This was an invited presentation to the Social Science seminar at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, discussing the methods applied in this project to estimate UK CO2 emissions at the level of households, the association between household characteristics and emissions and first results from modelling potential distributional implications following carbon taxes and tax-and-rebate schemes. It was followed by questions and discussion (7 November 2012).

The policy makers present were interested in the results but had little influence on shaping more wide ranging climate policies.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description Seminar presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Presented by Dr Nicholas Bardsley, Inaugural lecture of the Maria de Maeztu seminar series, ICTA, Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona. 25 academics and PhD students attended.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
 
Description Social Policy Association conference presentation - Who emits most 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact This presentation was attended by an academic audience from different disciplines interested in climate change and social policy. It was followed by a lively discussion. (18 July, University of York).

No direct impacts
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
 
Description University of Brighton Research Seminar presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact This invited presentation was given by Milena Buchs at the University of Brighton's Social Science Forum on 23 October 2013. It discusses the unequal distribution of carbon emissions and their association with household characteristics in the UK. It also elaborates on different policy options to mitigate emissions and their distributional and fairness implications.

n/a
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2013
 
Description University of Southampton research seminar presentation 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach Local
Primary Audience Other academic audiences (collaborators, peers etc.)
Results and Impact Ca. 25 staff and Phd students from the Social Sciences at the University of Southampton participated in the seminar and asked questions afterwards (24 May 2012).

We were asked to contribute information on our project to the USRG energy webpage.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012
URL http://www.southampton.ac.uk/sociology/news/seminars/2012/05/24_who_emits_most.page?