climate change globalisation

Carbon laundering: how to hide rising CO2 emissions

Britain has, on paper, reduced its carbon emissions. The latest reductions, with a little help from the recession, have been rather pronounced:

That’s great, except that the chart only accounts for emissions within the UK. If something is made overseas and consumed here, those production emissions go on somebody else’s tab. The emissions for transporting those things are also discounted, this time entirely. Add in Britain’s consumption, and our emissions look like this:

This is what is meant by ‘carbon laundering’. Britain consumes, but the emissions are recorded in China because that’s where our imports came  from. In that sense, China has paid for Britain’s reductions. We get the kudos of  falling emissions, and get to blame China for not taking climate change seriously. Not factoring in consumption, nor shipping and aviation, is one of the major loopholes in current carbon accounting.

These graphs are from the Royal Commission on Environmental Protection‘s last report. The organisation was recently closed. You can download the report, Demographic Change and the Environment (pdf) while the website remains online. It’s well worth a browse, not least for it’s tackling of the old population vs consumption question.

  • For more on carbon laundering, see the Chinadependence report from the new economics foundation.


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