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Rising carbon footprint inequality in the Philippines


The literature is abundant with studies analyzing inequality in carbon emissions at the macroeconomic level, but very limited at the household level. The issue of household carbon footprint inequality is relevant in mitigating climate change through curbing household emissions. This study investigates household carbon footprint inequality in the Philippines and decomposes it into consumption sources applying the standard method used in analyzing income inequality. Results show that the richest 20% of the population has an aggregate share of more than 50% in the total household emissions. Between 2000 and 2006, the Gini coefficient of carbon footprint increases from 0.455 to 0.475. This implies that there is a high and worsening carbon footprint disparity among Filipino households. This disparity in emissions is more pronounced among rich and poor households relative to the middle-income households depicting a non-monotonous kind of relationship between household income and carbon emissions. This suggests that variations in lifestyle and consumption preferences determine overall household emissions inequality. In addition, the decomposition analysis suggests that inequality in carbon footprint is mainly driven by energy-intensive consumption such as fuel, light and transportation. At any affluence level, promotion of less carbon-intensive or energy-efficient consumption allows for the reduction of not just the emissions level, but also the disparity in household carbon footprint.

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  1. 1.

    Carbon footprint refers to the CO2 emissions associated with households’ consumption with various goods and services. This definition has been used by Druckman and Jackson (2009) and is in line with the definition suggested by Wiedmann and Minx (2007), Weidema et al. (2008) and Minx et al. (2009). In analyzing carbon footprint inequality, the unit of measurement used in this paper is CO2 emissions. The term carbon footprint, carbon emissions, CO2 emissions are used interchangeably in the discussion, but they mean the same thing. It captures the embodied CO2 emissions in household consumption.

  2. 2.

    Ecological footprint was first introduced by Rees (1992) and developed by Wackernagel and Rees (1996). It measures the use of resources associated with productive and human activities subject to the bio-productive capacity of the Earth to produce those required resources.

  3. 3.

    Kakwani index was originally used to measure progressivity in taxation and public expenditure and was later on applied to equity issues in healthcare expenditures (Kakwani et al. 1997).

  4. 4.

    If we rank households based on emissions and compute the degree of inequality, we are getting the “simple” Gini index of household emissions and not the concentration.


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The author would like to acknowledge the financial support from the program Exchange by Promoting Quality Education, Research and Training in South and South-East Asia (EXPERTS 1) funded by the European Commission Erasmus and the guidance of Prof. Dr. Stephan Klasen of Göttingen University, Germany. In addition, heartfelt thanks and appreciation to the Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Kyoto University, Japan for additional funding and support when the author was a visiting research fellow at the center. We are very grateful to the editor and anonymous referees for their comments and suggestions. It helped improve the paper substantially.

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Correspondence to Moises Neil V. Seriño.

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Seriño, M.N.V. Rising carbon footprint inequality in the Philippines. Environ Econ Policy Stud 22, 173–195 (2020).

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  • Carbon intensive
  • Household consumption
  • Gini index
  • Climate change mitigation

JEL Codes

  • D39
  • Q43
  • Q56
  • R20