Consumption-based emissions

London’s wider greenhouse gas impacts

Date published: 
26 February 2020

Tackling the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from London’s buildings, transport and industry is a huge challenge. The impact of greenhouse gases goes far beyond the city’s boundaries too. Consider the electronic goods we buy, the food we eat and clothes we wear much of which is produced globally. Yet understanding emissions from our consumption patterns can help us better understand and plan to reduce London’s wider carbon footprint. Examples include our work with London Waste and Recycling Board to reduce food waste and promote new sustainable models of consumption for textiles.  Both will help to reduce emissions.

The Mayor, Sadiq Khan, has commissioned Leeds University to develop a historic trend of consumption-based emissions for London. It uses the latest available data (running from 2001-2016) on average expenditure on different types of goods and service. This methodology aligns with what the government uses at UK level. 

Key findings

London’s consumption-based emissions in 2016 were around 110Mt CO2e. They’ve fallen by 5 per cent since 2001, despite the city’s population increasing by almost 1.5 million over that time. This means emissions per head have reduced by 21 per cent (from 15.9t CO2e to 12.6t CO2e). The biggest drop was between 2008 and 2009 during the global financial crisis, which had a big impact on household expenditure.

In comparison, emissions occurring in London, and from the generation of electricity that is consumed in London, were around 31 MtCO2e in 2016. These emissions have reduced by 39 per cent since 2000.

The national/international context

London’s per capita consumption-based footprint is close to the UK average. It also follows a similar trend in reduction over the same period. However, at sector level there are some cases where the per capita emissions for Londoners are different, for example: 

  • Food and drink – London has higher emissions for food and drink consumed outside the home and lower in the home. This reflects different eating patterns. 
  • Transport – Londoners have higher than average emissions associated with air travel.

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