Government claims to be leading the world on
emissions reductions have been challenged by new research,
BBC reports today.
The BBC says UK emissions are rising, not
falling, once pollution in imported goods from the likes of China
are included. In fact, UK emissions including imports are below
1990 levels, while a larger share of the UK's imported emissions
come from Europe than from China.
Carbon Brief explores the new research on the
UK's imported emissions, and considers the implications for global
Consumption versus production
Traditional emissions accounting only considers
the greenhouse gases generated within a country's own borders. In
other words, emissions produced in the UK are allocated to the UK.
On this measure, UK emissions have
fallen dramatically to around 25% below 1990
But this impressive record is illusory, the BBC
report says, because of emissions embedded in imported goods. This
is not a new idea. For instance, this
2012 Guardian article reports MPs' claims
that the UK has "merely outsourced emissions to China".
Consumption-based accounting attempts to
acknowledge this issue, adding up its impact on the UK's total
climate footprint. It adds emissions embedded in imports to the
UK's footprint by tracking global trade from the point of purchase
of goods and services back to their origin.
If someone in the UK buys an Audi or an iPhone,
then the UK is handed responsibility for the emissions needed to
make them. Using this method, new research from
the University of Leeds finds the UK's record
looks less impressive, with emissions in 2012 just 7% below 1990
Imports mostly not from China
The UK's imported emissions have increased over
the past two decades so that they now make up around half of the
UK's climate footprint, as the chart below shows. The UK's
production emissions have fallen fast (dark blue area), but imports
have offset much of the gain (lighter blues, purples and grey
Source: University of Leeds
Sustainability Research Institute. Graph by Carbon