UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources


Arkaitz Usubiaga

Prior to joining UCL ISR, Arkaitz was a research fellow at the research group on Material Flows and Resource Management of the Wuppertal Institute for Climate, Environment and Energy in Germany.

During the time in Wuppertal, Arkaitz specialised on environmental accounting and indicators, environmentally-extended input-output analysis and resource efficiency in a wide range of project funded by the European Commission, the European Environment Agency and the European Parliament.

Key projects include EXIOPOL (A New Environmental Accounting Framework Using Externality Data and Input-Output Tools for Policy Analysis), CREEA (Compiling and Refining Environmental and Economic Accounts) and DESIRE (Development of a System of Indicators for a Resource efficient Europe), where he contributed to generate the physical energy flow and air emission accounts of the EXIOBASE multi-regional input-output database;  EMInInn (Environmental Macro Indicators of Innovation), where he assessed the ex-post environmental implications of energy innovations; and the European Environment Agency's Topic Centre on Sustainable Consumption and Production and the ongoing Topic Centre on Waste and Materials in a Green Economy, where he was part of the team working on environmental footprinting.

Arkaitz holds a BSc on environmental sciences and a BSc on chemistry, both from the University of the Basque Country. He is also member of the International Input-Output Association and the Hispanic-American Input-Output Society.

Research subject

Provisional thesis title: Are European production and consumption patterns environmentally sustainable? - A SGAP-based assessment

Primary and secondary supervisors: Prof. Paul Ekins Prof. Raimund Bleischwitz

The concept of the green economy has recently emerged as a socioeconomic development model that embraces economic, social and environmental concerns in line with sustainability principles. Although indicators are expected to play a critical role in providing guidance for green economy pathways, existing metrics do not yet adequately address the challenges of 1) showing systematically progress towards sustainability thresholds across the whole range of environmental and resource issues, and 2) summarising this information into a single indicator that can be used in policy making by national governments. Instead, environmental metrics in use are commonly limited to providing information on the overall environmental situation in concrete environmental domains or indicating the environmental intensity of human activities, while ‘Beyond-GDP-type’ of macro-level aggregates lack acceptance and methodological robustness.

Against this background, this research will use the Sustainability Gap (SGAP) framework developed by Paul Ekins in the late 1990s to assess whether European production and consumption patterns can be considered sustainable from an environmental standpoint. This can be translated into the following research questions:

  • Are European production and consumption patterns compatible with environmental sustainability principles?
  • If not, how long would it the countries to reach a sustainable path under business as usual conditions?
  • What is the monetary ‘unsustainability intensity’ of European countries’ activities? 
Publications and other work
  • Usubiaga, A. and Acosta-Fernández, J. (2015). Carbon emission accounting in MRIO models: the territory vs. the residence principle. Economic Systems Research, 27 (4), 458-477
  • Wood, R., Stadler, K., Bulavskaya, T., Lutter, S., Giljum, S., de Koning, A., Kuenen, J., Schütz, H., Acosta-Fernández, J., Usubiaga, A., Simas, M., Ivanova, O., Schmidt, J., Merciai, S., Tukker, A. (2015). Global sustainability accounting - developing EXIOBASE for multi-regional footprint analysis. Sustainability, 7, 138-163
  • EEA - European Environment Agency (2014). Progress on resource efficiency and de-coupling in the EU-27 - Messages emerging from environmentally extended input-output analysis with relevance to the Resource Efficiency Roadmap and the 7 Environment Action Program. EEA Technical Report No 7/2014. [Authors: Watson, D., Acosta Fernández, J., Usubiaga, A. and Schütz, H.]

Conference papers

  • Usubiaga, A. and McDowall, W. (2015). A hybrid EEIO-based assessment of energy innovations: the case of photovoltaic panels and (onshore and offshore) wind turbines in EU27. 6th Spanish Conference on Input-Output Analysis. Barcelona, 07-09.09.2015.