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The dynamics of consumption activities by income level in Mexico and CO2 emissions




Santillán-Vera, Mónica, author

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The overall purpose of this paper is to emphasize that consumption activities –which are considerably different among income levels– are drivers of CO2 emissions and particularly studying this picture of Mexico from 1965 to 2015. Although from the economic science most of the climate change studies have been based on the conventional approach focused mainly on the supply (activities and actors related with production sectors), some alternative approaches focused on the demand (activities and actors related with final consumption of goods and services) have already been developed, and some of them take into account economic inequality. The "consumption-based emission inventories" –which consider emissions embodied in products of consumption, whether locally produced or imported– are an option to estimate the impact of consumption activities of a country on CO2 emissions. However, consumption activities are not homogeneous within a country, so including in this scenario internal economic inequality allows allocating emissions among individuals and suggests an extreme carbon inequality between rich and poor people. From these alternative approaches, CO2 emissions of Mexico during 1965-2015 are analyzed by applying a simple expenditure-CO2 emissions elasticity model in order to allocate carbon responsibilities among income groups within the country. This top-down analysis uses consumption-based CO2 inventories and elasticities from 0.7 to 1.0 (based on estimates of previous bottom-up studies) and points out there has been a big carbon inequality among income groups all through this period. If an average of 0.9 elasticity is considered, in 2014 the poorest decile emitted 2.4 tons of CO2 per capita, while the richest decile emitted 13.3 tons, and the richest percentile 38.2 tons. This kind of studies –non-existent for Mexico– leads to rethinking the weight of income distribution and consumption patterns on climate change, as well as the allocation of mitigation responsibilities among both countries and individuals, thus opening up complementary options to design mitigation strategies and policies.


Presented at the Environmental justice in the Anthropocene symposium held on April 24-25, 2017 at the Lory Student Center, Colorado State University, Fort Collins Colorado. This symposium aims to bring together academics (faculty and graduate students), independent researchers, community and movement activists, and regulatory and policy practitioners from across disciplines, research areas, perspectives, and different countries. Our overarching goal is to build on several decades of EJ research and practice to address the seemingly intractable environmental and ecological problems of this unfolding era. How can we explore EJ amongst humans and between nature and humans, within and across generations, in an age when humans dominate the landscape? How can we better understand collective human dominance without obscuring continuing power differentials and inequities within and between human societies? What institutional and governance innovations can we adopt to address existing challenges and to promote just transitions and futures?
Includes bibliographical references.

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our common future
sustainable development
climate change
mitigation strategies
CO2 emissions


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