Government should set emissions targets on a consumption basis
A recent report of the Energy and Climate Change Committee has warned that the Government needs to be clearer of the effect the UK’s energy consumption is having on the rest of the world. The main concerns outlined in the report are:
1. The DECC’s statistics are not a true reflection of the UK’s record for cutting greenhouse gases.
2. Carbon dioxide emissions from imported goods in the UK is increasing faster than the Government is reducing levels at home.
3. The figures produced by the Government for consumption-based emissions from imported goods show carbon dioxide emissions in 2009 were 20% higher than in 1990.
MP Tim Yeo, Chair of the Energy and Climate Change Committee has said:
“Successive governments have claimed to be cutting climate-changing emissions, but in fact a lot of pollution has simply been outsourced overseas. The Department for Energy and Climate Change likes to argue that the UK is only responsible for 2% of the world's CO2 emissions, but the Government’s own research shows this not to be the case. We get through more consumer goods than ever before in the UK and this is pushing up emissions in manufacturing countries like China."
Official figures of the DECC for carbon dioxide emissions within the UK show a 20% reduction between 1990 and 2009 whereas research from the Department for the Environment and Rural Affairs has shown that emissions were 20% higher in 2009.
Tim Yeo MP added:
"The UK can scarcely lecture countries like China for failing to sign up to binding emissions cuts when much of their pollution is produced making products for us and other high-consumption economies.”
We are not saying that consumption emissions should form the basis of a new global climate treaty, but a more honest approach about our contribution to rising CO2 levels could help to break the stalemate.
"Without a complete picture of the UK’s impact on the global climate, DECC runs the risk of designing energy and climate change policies that produce perverse unintended consequences.The Government should commission the Committee on Climate Change to examine how the UK could incorporate consumption emissions accounting into our climate change policy.Better information on the emissions embedded in products could also encourage individuals and businesses to reduce their own carbon footprint."
MPs have argued that for the UK to encourage emissions reductions in countries that manufacture and export goods to the UK then the Government needs to recognise the UK’s growth in consumption based emissions. The DECC claims it would be difficult to monitor consumption-based emissions.
MPs say the difficulty should not lead to inaction on their part. Several local authorities are already using consumption data to influence policy making decisions and DEFRA has calculated this with only minimal margins of uncertainty.
The independent committee on Climate Change have advised the Government that they would welcome the opportunity of exploring the implications of consumption-based emissions on the UK’s carbon budgets.