Definition: Air emissions accounts
Air emissions accounts - as collected every two years by Eurostat - record and present annual data on emissions of greenhouse gases and other air pollutants in a way that is compatible with national accounts. Within these accounts, emissions of greenhouse gases are assigned to the inducing entities according to the classification of economic activities (NACE), whose scope ranges from agriculture, through mining and industry, to services and public administration, as well as private households.
Air emissions accounts can be used in a range of different contexts - in particular, to analyse environmental implications of production and consumption patterns. From a production perspective, air emissions accounts can be used to consider all direct air emissions arising from resident economic units, distinguishing the environmental performance of different activities. Total air emissions assigned to a national economy can be obtained simply by summing contributions from each economic branch (including households), revealing where the environmental impact of emissions is greatest. This approach can be extended linking data on emissions and economic output, thereby providing measures of "environmental performance", such as emissions intensities.
It is also possible to use air emissions accounts from the consumption perspective. Such calculations are likely to be considerably more complex as they should take into consideration all greenhouse gas emissions arising along the entire – and increasingly global – production chain. For example, in the case of food consumption, the emissions relating to a particular product, say a chocolate biscuit, should reflect the complete journey from the farm to the fork (thereby accounting for, among others, greenhouse gas emissions relating to the application of fertilisers and/or manure, the combustion of fuels used in agricultural machinery, the production of electricity consumed in food processing plants, the combustion of fuel in transporting the food to market, or the manufacture, collection and disposal of packaging materials).
Policy makers may be interested in greenhouse gas emissions from domestic final use (comprising emissions from domestic production systems and those from imports). Indeed, when air emissions accounts are combined with supply, use and input-output tables, analyses may be extended to cover environmental pressures associated with consumption and production patterns, which are likely to be of particular relevance in relation to sustainable development initiatives. One potential use of this type of analysis is the calculation of "carbon footprints" for a range of end products, taking account of production, distribution, consumption and disposal.
Eurostat, "Using Official Statistics to Calculate Greenhouse Gas Emissions. A Statistical Guide", Publications Office of the European Union, Luxembourg, 2010