Water, Air Pollution and Carbon Footprints of Conspicuous/luxury Consumption in India

Soumyajit Bhar , Sharachchandra Lele, Jihoon Min, Narasimha D. Rao

Ecological Economics | January 12, 2024

The literature on the environmental impacts of household consumption in India focuses on carbon and ecological footprints of income groups. This article connects conspicuous/luxury (C/L) consumption in India to its local, regional and global environmental impacts. We evaluate carbon dioxide (CO2), water, and particulate matter (PM2.5) footprints of consumption disaggregated into food-basic, nonfood-basic, and C/L consumption across expenditure deciles. We find that all three footprints rise, but at different rates, with increasing expenditure. Notably, CO2 and PM2.5 intensities of C/L consumption increase with income, unlike all other intensities of consumption. However, in all three footprints, there is a disproportionate rise in the top decile, which is driven by C/L consumption expenditure more than the pollution intensity of C/L consumption. These results imply that demand reduction measures in C/L consumption could have broad-based and deep environmental benefits, while pollutant-specific mitigation policies may face trade-offs with other environmental impacts. There is a need for further research on connecting local and regional environmental footprints with the actual impacts, to better understand the relationships between conspicuous/luxury consumption and multi-dimensional environmental impacts in developing countries context.