International inequality of environmental pressures: decomposition and comparative analysis

Natural resource scarcity is no longer merely a remote possibility and governments increasingly seek information about the global distribution of resource use and related environmental pressures. This paper presents an international distributional analysis of natural resource use indicators. These encompass both territorial (national production) and footprint (national consumption) indicators for land-related pressures (human appropriation of net primary production, HANPP, and embodied HANPP), for material use (domestic material extraction and consumption and material footprint), and for carbon emissions (territorial carbon emissions and carbon footprints). Our main question is “What, both from a territorial and a footprint perspective, are the main driving factors of international environmental inequality?”. We show that, for the environmental indicators we studied, inequality tends to be higher for footprint indicators than for territorial ones. The exception is land use intensity (as measured by HANPP), for which geographical drivers mainly determine the distribution pattern. The international distribution of material consumption is mainly a result of economic drivers whereas, for domestic extraction, demographic drivers can explain almost half of the distribution pattern. Finally, carbon emissions are the environmental pressure that shows the highest international inequality because of the larger contribution of economic drivers.

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