Allocating carbon responsibility: the role of spatial production fragmentation

A number of studies have compared national carbon abatement responsibility under different carbon accounting schemes. However, the difficulty of the shift among different national carbon accounting schemes has rarely been quantitatively evaluated in the literature. Spatial production fragmentation over the recent decades has led to geographical separation among the primary inputs supplying regions, carbon emitting regions, and final consuming regions. The purpose of this paper is to reveal the effects of spatial production fragmentation on the shift from production-based to consumption-based and income-based national carbon accounting. Based on both demand- and supply-driven input-output analytical frameworks, this paper analyses the allocation of carbon responsibility for embodied and enabled emissions along production chains over the period 1995-2009. It was found that as much as 25% of embodied emissions and 20% of enabled emissions crossed national borders more than once in 2009. The shift among different carbon accounting schemes is not only related to the magnitude of trade related emissions but also related to border-crossing frequency associated with emissions embodied in or enabled by international trade. The increasingly fragmented production networks complicate the shift from production-based to consumption-based or income-based accounting and weaken the effectiveness of consumption-based or income-based accounting.