Imports mask true carbon footprint of industrialised world
3 July 2008, source edie newsroom
Importing goods from the developing world disguises the carbon footprint of industrialised countries
The study provides an insight into the impacts of all the goods and services consumed by British households, including those emissions that occur in countries exporting to the UK, which are usually excluded from standard emissions analysis.
Because the figures take into account the impact of a country's citizens beyond its own borders, it paints a truer picture of a nation's real carbon footprint.
Measuring emissions on a consumption basis will produce different numbers for all economies than those reported on under the Kyoto Protocol. For the UK, for example, consumption emissions in 2004 were 37% higher than the UK Greenhouse Gas Inventory which is based on territorial emissions under UN rules.
Carbon dioxide emissions embedded in imports went up from 35% of UK emissions in 1992 to 67% in 2004, while those embedded in exports increased from 31% to 45% of emissions over the same period.
This suggests that while the UK has made progress in reducing its own carbon dioxide emissions, these reductions have been offset by increased emissions in other countries through the consumption of imported goods and services.
Trade data also indicates an increasing dominance of emissions embedded in UK imports from newly emerging economies such as China, India and Russia.
Dr Tommy Wiedmann from Stockholm Environment Institute, who led the study, said: "Accounting for emissions from a consumption perspective provides insight into the global impacts of local consumption. It gives support for the view that in an increasingly globalised market all economies need to play their part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions."
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