As environmental impacts continue to rise, the need to identify and quantify the underlying causes of these impacts has prompted important research questions. This is heightened by the fact that the production of goods and services is becoming increasingly global with countries relying on each other through trade. As such, it is important to have a mechanism in place to understand the environmental burden shifts from one country to another. To this end, this paper exploits a paradox in global environmental analysis, which stems from a false decoupling between economic and production systems as observed in most developed nations, which results in improved territorial emissions of these developed countries at the expense of developing countries.Ecological unequal exchange is one such contemporary ecological economic concept that is used to highlight such asymmetric transfer of embodied natural resources and biophysical indicators between countries. Attempts at environmental impacts reduction efforts has largely focused on carbon emissions but given the complex supply chain created through globalisation and international trade, it is important to consider other important metrics such as land and water use alongside carbon emissions to drive environmental policies that will holistically address ecologically unequal exchanges. For developing countries in Africa where the dependence on land use and water use for agricultural activities are crucial to the development of national economies and in combating poverty, an assessment of these metrics has become even more paramount.Against this backdrop, the current work draws upon the theoretical constructs of multi-regional input-output (MRIO) framework to trace country specific sectorial-level flows of the aforementioned metrics between a representative developed nation, UK, and 27 African regions in order to fully examine their ecological exchanges. Key findings in the study suggest that for water consumption and land use, there is a net externalisation of these impacts for all the 27 African regions by the UK. It was also determined that the extent of the imbalance between the UK and the African region is exceedingly far greater for water consumption. It is recommended that in formulating a robust multi-national environmental policy where so many factors are at play, country specific and industry targeted approach to ecological unequal exchange between nations provides better and improved insight into addressing ensuing environmental issues.
Ecological Economics – Elsevier
Published: May 1, 2018
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