Wednesday, May 5, 2010

New study reveals scale of "outsourced emissions" (Scope 3)

See details concern Scope 3 emissions...

Around a third of industrialised countries carbon emissions are exported to developing nations.

The extent to which the UK and other industrialised nations are "outsourcing " their carbon emissions to developing countries was again highlighted today with the publication of a major new report revealing that goods and services imported into developed countries typically account for around a third of their total carbon footprint.

The study from a team of researchers at the Carnegie Institution for Science used published trade data for 2004 to assess the global trade flows for products across 57 different industries and 113 countries.

It then allocated carbon footprints for the products and services involved, revealing that import-reliant industrialised economies are effectively outsourcing their carbon emissions to companies in countries such as China that produce the goods and services they use.

The report, which was published yesterday in the 2010 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that products imported by the UK are responsible for 253m tonnes of carbon emissions each year, equivalent to 4.3 extra tonnes per person on top of the official per capita emissions of 9.7 tonnes.

Similarly, the US and Japan are respectively responsible for 699m and 284m tonnes of overseas carbon emissions, while some smaller countries such as Switzerland are effectively outsourcing more carbon emissions than they release in their own borders.

"Just like the electricity that you use in your home probably causes CO2 emissions at a coal-burning power plant somewhere else, we found that the products imported by the developed countries of western Europe, Japan, and the United States cause substantial emissions in other countries, especially China, " said report lead author Steven Davis. "On the flip side, nearly a quarter of the emissions produced in China are ultimately exported."

The reports findings echo similar studies from the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research and Oxford University, both of which found that the emission reductions delivered by a number of industrialised countries have been largely the result of carbon intensive heavy industries being outsourced to developing countries.

The report will further strengthen the position of Chinese officials, who have long maintained that those developed countries that import Chinese goods and services have to take some form of responsibility for the country's soaring carbon emissions.

See the column for more details..

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