Embodied carbon outweighs UK cuts, researchers say

19th March 2015


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Nadia Bidzinska

Carbon emissions produced in the manufacture of goods imported to the UK are offsetting domestic reductions in CO2, according to the University of Leeds.

The academics report that UK carbon emissions fell by 194 million tonnes between 1990 and 2012, but that 280 million tonnes were created overseas during the manufacture of goods imported into the country during that period.

If the UK took responsibility for its global emissions, it would need to achieve its 80% cut in CO2 by 2040, 10 years earlier than planned, the researchers conclude.

The say methods to accurately measure consumption-based emissions need to be introduced so that a complete picture can be presented of changes in regional and national emissions.

However, policy, politics and governance issues associated with consumption-based emissions are in their infancy, they acknowledge.

Government data on the UK's carbon footprint, published today, reveals that the proportion of greenhouse gases (GHGs) coming from the manufacture of imported goods falling from its peak in 2007.

However, the proportion of GHGs embedded in goods imported into the UK in 2012 was slightly higher than in 1997 - 45% compared with 41%. The government says this due to more embedded emissions in imports from China, which offset lower levels in emissions from goods imported from both the EU and the rest of the world.

Lord Deben, chair of the Committee on Climate Change, said that it was important to measure emissions on the basis of domestic production to avoid double counting.

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