Decomposition analysis of per capita emissions: a tool for assessing consumption changes and technology changes within scenarios

Nicole J van den Berg*, Andries F Hof, Kaj-Ivar van der Wijst, Lewis Akenji, Vassilis Daioglou, Oreane Y Edelenbosch, Mariësse A E van Sluisveld, Vanessa J Timmer, Detlef P van Vuuren

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Recent studies show that behaviour changes can provide an essential contribution to achieving the Paris climate targets. Existing climate change mitigation scenarios primarily focus on technological change and underrepresent the possible contribution of behaviour change. This paper presents and applies a methodology to decompose the factors contributing to changes in per capita emissions in scenarios. With this approach, we determine the relative contribution to total emissions from changes in activity, the way activities are carried out, the intensity of activities, as well as fuel choice. The decomposition tool breaks down per capita emissions loosely following the Kaya Identity, allowing a comparison between the contributions of technology and consumption changes among regions and between various scenarios. We illustrate the use of the tool by applying it to three previously-published scenarios; a baseline scenario, a scenario with a selection of behaviour changes, and a 2 °C scenario with the same selection of behaviour changes. Within these scenarios, we explore the contribution of technology and consumption changes to total emission changes in the transport and residential sector, for a selection of both developed and developing regions. In doing so, the tool helps identify where specifically (i.e. via consumption or technology factors) different measures play a role in mitigating emissions and expose opportunities for improved representation of behaviour changes in integrated assessment models. This research shows the value of the decomposition tool and how the approach could be flexibly replicated for different global models based on available variables and aims. The application of the tool to previously-published scenarios shows substantial differences in consumption and technology changes from CO2 price and behaviour changes, in transport and residential per capita emissions and between developing and developed regions. Furthermore, the tool's application can highlight opportunities for future scenario development of a more nuanced and heterogeneous representation of behaviour and lifestyle changes in global models.
Original languageEnglish
Article number015004
Number of pages12
JournalEnvironmental Research Communications
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2021


  • Behaviour
  • Behaviour changes
  • Consumption patterns
  • Decomposition analysis
  • Scenario analysis


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