Britain’s outsourced carbon

There are lots of ways to reduce CO2 emissions. You can move to renewable energy, adopt public transport, or pursue energy efficiency. But there’s another much easier strategy: offshore your most carbon intensive industries and import goods instead.

That’s what Britain has done, though not as a deliberate decarbonisation measure, mind you. It’s a happy byproduct of globalisation and the move towards a service based economy. When production moves overseas, so do the emissions. We get the benefit of the products, and the environmental cost falls elsewhere. We don’t even need to worry about the shipping, because those emissions occur in-between countries and nobody counts those.

The Sustainability Research Institute at the University of Leeds has calculated Britain’s consumption emissions versus our territorial emissions. This is the result:

uk consumption emissions

What this means is that Britain’s total carbon emissions are 50% larger than the reported figure. If our real priority is to stop climate change, rather than just meet a political target, then that is a cause for concern. Especially if that is repeated in other developed countries.

The other thing to notice is that, on the plus side, those consumption emissions have dropped since the financial crisis and haven’t rebounded. Even though the economy is growing again, the upward trend hasn’t been resumed – not yet at least. Perhaps it will. Or perhaps it will stay lower, if the global economy continues with its anticipated slowdown.

There’s lots more to explore on the SRI’s minisite Exploring the UK’s Carbon Footprint.

 

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Britain sets 5th carbon budget | Make Wealth History - June 30, 2016

    […] you can argue that Britain has offshored its emissions rather than culled them, but within the internationally established norm of national emissions […]

  2. Britain’s falling carbon emissions | Make Wealth History - March 14, 2017

    […] carbon emissions have been falling for a while, partly due to offshoring heavy industry, but in 2014 we saw a steeper decline as coal power stations were closed – a record fall in a […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: