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Britain Importing CO2 Emissions!! ‘Outsourcing its CO2 emissions to developing nations’

By Paul Homewood 

No s**t Sherlock!


Britain has contributed to the global climate emergency by outsourcing its carbon emissions to developing nations, according to official figures, despite managing to weaken the domestic link between fossil fuels and economic growth.

The Office for National Statistics said the UK had become the biggest net importer of carbon dioxide emissions per capita in the G7 group of wealthy nations – outstripping the US and Japan – as a result of buying goods manufactured abroad.

The ONS warned that Britain had increased its net imports of CO2 emissions per capita from 1.7 tonnes in 1992 to 5.1 tonnes in 2007, offsetting domestic progress on shifting the UK economy away from fossil fuels.

According to the ONS study, China was the biggest single source of Britain’s imported emissions, as the UK ramped up purchases of goods such as mobile phones made in the Asian country, where labour costs are lower and pollution regulations less stringent. The second biggest contributor to imported emissions was the EU, followed by the US.

The ONS warned that environmental damage could not be stopped by nation’s simply relocating the production of goods from advanced to developing nations.

Amina Syed, senior economist at the ONS, said: “While directly produced UK emissions have been falling for many years, once you take account of the UK importing products from abroad, the picture doesn’t look quite so positive.

“However, UK based firms, particularly those in the transport and energy sectors, have made big strides in recent years in reducing their carbon footprints.”

In a sign of domestic progress, the ONS said there was evidence of an “absolute decoupling” between CO2 emissions and economic growth since about 1985, driven by the steady dismantling of the nation’s manufacturing base and the gradual rise of renewable energy sources and low-carbon technologies.

The shift away from heavy industry to knowledge-intensive service sector in that period has resulted in gross domestic product per capita rising by 70.7%. It also contributed to a 34.2% decrease in UK-produced carbon emissions.

According to the ONS, energy consumption from fossil fuels fell 22% between 1990 and 2017 to 161.6m tonnes, while energy from renewable anwaste sources rose by 1,267% over the same period, reaching 20.5m tonnes.

Ah, the old argument about “decoupling between CO2 emissions and economic growth “. Unfortunately, you cannot live on a knowledge-intensive service sector alone. The last time I checked, most people still needed food, heating, homes, transport, clothing and all the other trappings of modern life. The only ones who don’t are dead.

The fact that UK imported emissions have risen faster than other countries is that, for a long time now, we have imported much more per capita than the rest. There is nothing wrong about this, simply a reflection of the UK’s economy. As people have become more well off, their consumption of goods has naturally increased.

Which brings us around to the question of just what the Guardian or the ONS suggest we do about it.

Since countries like China will carry on relying heavily on fossil fuels for many years to come, do they propose that we cut our consumption?

And if so, how? Economists have suggested a “carbon tariff” on imports, which would simply penalise the poor, while the better off would continue to buy imported goods regardless. Alternatively, maybe they would like to see rationing.

Given that Guardian readers tend to be amongst the wealthier classes, maybe they should volunteer to be the first guinea pigs!