Emissions by End-Use: What Activities Create the Most Emissions?
14 minute read
Updated on Thu Mar 04 2021
In the last chapter we categorised emissions based on which sector they came from. There are other ways of looking at emissions, including by end-use or activity. This breaks down emissions within each sector to look at the final product or activity emissions are used for.
Why is it useful to categorise emissions by end use?
This is useful for working out how to reduce them. For example, we will see that buildings account for 17.7% of energy emissions. This information may lead governments to improve insulation so that less energy is wasted by inefficient heating and cooling of these buildings.
Which products cause the most emissions?
This particularly makes a difference for the energy sector, which produces energy for a wide range of end uses. Responsibility for emissions can be reallocated from the energy supply sector to the activities or products that use that energy.
Which end uses/activities are the worst for the planet?
The buildings we live and work in account for even more, releasing 17.7% of global CO₂e emissions. This includes the electricity used in lighting, appliance use (anything plugged into a socket, from toasters to hairdryers), refrigeration and air conditioning, as well as the heat to warm our houses and workplaces and any direct fuel use such as gas.
What is a “supply chain” and why are they important?
All the stages involved in the creation of a particular product - getting the resources, producing it, transporting it, and using and disposing of it - are collectively referred to as the supply chain.
When we categorise greenhouse gas emissions by end use, the emissions from each stage of the supply chain count towards the emissions caused by the final end product.
Let’s have a look at what this means in the food supply chain and the fashion supply chain.
The food supply chain
Today's food supply chain creates approximately 13.7 billion metric tonnes of CO₂e, 26% of human greenhouse gas emissions. Each stage of the food supply chain - from farm to fork - produces greenhouse gases. And let's not forget emissions from food waste too!
The land use change and farm stages dominate, representing 82% of food emissions! There are also massive differences in the greenhouse gas emissions of different foods: producing 1 kg of beef emits 60 kg of CO₂e, whereas producing 1 kg of peas emits just 1 kg of CO₂e.
What about the clothes we wear?
As fast fashion becomes more prevalent, the emissions from the fashion industry continue to increase; clothing is produced on shorter time frames with new designs appearing every few weeks to satisfy demands for the latest trends. Today, the average consumer buys 60% more clothing than they did in 2003.
There are different ways of categorising greenhouse gas emissions, including by primary source and by end-use activity. It is important to know where greenhouse gas emissions are coming from so we can see where changes need to be made to best fight climate change.
We need to tackle the big emitters of greenhouse gases first (e.g energy!) and stop focusing so much on smaller sources of emissions. In the next chapter, we will look at which countries produce the most greenhouse gas emissions.Next Chapter