Consumption-based emissions by London boroughs have reduced but not fast enough to meet emission targets, warns new report

Consumption-based emissions by London boroughs have declined on average over the last two decades but there is still much more work to do in order to reach emission targets, warns a new report by London Councils and ReLondon.

Consumption-based emissions are the amount of carbon emissions attributed to a place based on the goods and services used in that area by residents and businesses.

The report, commissioned by London Councils and ReLondon, and carried out by the University of Leeds, showed that consumption-based emissions at a borough-level across London decreased from 101 Mtonnes CO2e in 2001 to 74 Mtonnes CO2e in 2018. This is a reduction of 27 per cent.

The report shows that every London borough saw a reduction in their consumption-based emissions even though London’s population has increased significantly. The data also reveals that the difference between the highest and lowest consuming borough has reduced markedly.

While this reduction of consumption-based emissions since 2001 is hugely welcomed, the pace of reduction is not fast enough to meet the target of reducing consumption emissions by two thirds by 2030. This target, focusing on food, clothing, electronics and aviation, is set by the One World Living – Reducing Consumption-based Emissions programme and led by London Borough of Harrow on behalf of London Councils, and was established in a 2019 Joint Statement on Climate Change.

In every borough, the largest impact is transport, due to a combination of petrol and diesel cars, non-renewably powered public transport and aviation emissions. The second largest impact is buildings and their associated power usage. Food and drink are the third largest impacts, with other categories being much lower. Overall, higher consumption emissions are emitted by wealthier boroughs. 

Mayor Philip Glanville, Chair of London Councils’ Transport and Environment Committee, said:

“As a leading global city, London has a huge responsibility for the impact of emissions we produce directly, but we must go further than this and consider the environmental impacts of the goods and services that we consume which are produced outside of the city.

“By measuring consumption-based emissions, we can help Londoners understand their choices and behaviours that contribute to climate change; our One World Living programme, led by LB Harrow, will build on this to create demand for green goods and services and help to encourage sustainable consumption and production across the globe.

“This is the clearest picture we have ever had of London’s impact on the environment. While it is positive that consumption emissions have reduced, we need to work quickly to fully understand consumption within London and how local leaders can work with Londoners to transition to a more sustainable way of life.

”It is essential we build a sustainable London for every Londoner, making sure that our diverse communities are all included in finding solutions to reduce consumption-based emissions across the capital’s varied boroughs.”

Wayne Hubbard, CEO of ReLondon, said:

“Understanding and measuring consumption and its carbon impact is a vital piece of the jigsaw in tackling the climate crisis – particularly in a city like London which imports so many of its products and services, and has such a dense population. So this piece of research is essential in helping us understand which kinds of ‘stuff’ create the most consumption-based emissions and where; it fills an important data gap at a local level which will help London boroughs take targeted action to reduce consumption-based emissions.

“We’re pleased to be part of this work and are building on it with a series of material flow analyses over the coming year, starting with detailed research into food flows in and out of the city and their subsequent carbon emissions.”

Dr Anne Owen, University of Leeds, said:

“A household consumption-based account is the quantity of greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production of all the goods and services a household purchases in one year. The household consumption account includes both domestic emissions and emissions released abroad that are part of the product’s supply chain.

“The household consumption-based accounts for each London borough and the City of London have reduced significantly between 2001 and 2018 but there is further action required to meet carbon reduction targets.

“London Councils and ReLondon have led the way in commissioning data on household consumption-based accounts. We strongly recommend that this London study becomes the blueprint for local authorities in the rest of the UK.”


Notes to editors:

1) For the full report please click here

2) London Councils and ReLondon have commissioned the University of Leeds to conduct an analysis of consumption-based emissions at the borough-level in the period 2001 – 2018, in order to understand the different challenges faced by boroughs as they look to reduce consumption-based emissions.

3) The data has an unavoidable three year lag meaning we can only analyse data sets up to 2018.


For further information please contact: