New Climate Change Report

I\’ve had a quick look for this new report but can\’t find a copy. Let me know if you can:

Britain is responsible for hundreds of millions more tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions than official figures admit, according to a new report that undermines UK claims to lead the world on action against global warming.

The analysis says pollution from aviation, shipping, overseas trade and tourism, which are not measured in the official figures, means that UK carbon consumption has risen significantly over the past decade, and that the government\’s claims to have tackled global warming are an "illusion".

This is, of course, entirely possible. The interesting question is whether it is true or not. Until I see he report I can\’t say really, but this doesn\’t fill me with a great deal of hope:

The new analysis measures the UK\’s consumption of carbon, rather than production. It includes energy consumed to make products and ship them to the UK from countries such as China, as well as the carbon footprint of British citizens abroad.

The first question has to be whether they are deducting the carbon used to manufacture goods and services for export: not to do so while counting the carbon in imports would be a fairly gross form of double counting.

Rather more mindboggling is the idea that my carbon emissions down here in Portugal (actually rather low, almost no heating, no air con, petrol usage of perhaps a tankful every fortnight) should be added to the UK\’s numbers. For if we\’re going to do that then we also have to remove from the UK numbers the emissions from non-UK citizens actually living in the UK. As migration numbers in are higher than those out, this would rather make me think that doing so would reduce total UK emissions, not increase them (plus, of course, the Lisboan banker in the City would have vastly higher emissions than I do down here).

If anyone sees a copy of that report, do let me know would you? Love to see what they\’re actually saying.

Update: I\’ve now got a copy of the paper from the author and no, he doesn\’t make those mistakes. It\’s the journalist who isn\’t clear with what\’s going on.

Measuring emissions on the consumption basis rather than the production basis makes sense (well, it\’s certainly interesting to compare the two methods) and he does use net figures (ie, imports minus exports, UK residents abroad minus non-residents in the UK etc). There\’s an interesting implication of all this though which I\’ll write up a little later, possibly at another place. I\’ve got more here now.

6 thoughts on “New Climate Change Report”

  1. Tim,

    To take into account the issues raise would entail far more honesty than I expect from the environmental movement these days.

    Sight unseen, my response to your question about whether these matters are taken into account is – Of course not.

  2. The report does take into account these issues – it was a report by the CBI, not the environmental movement, which didn’t.

  3. Pingback: Britain is reponsible for hundreds of millions of tonnes of more emissions « Curly’s Corner Shop, the blog!

  4. It seems quite unexceptionable to base a country’s carbon footprint on consumption rather than production, as long as – as you say, Tim – there’s no double-counting involved.

    Not surprised the authors avoided the export/import double-counting trap. Dieter Helm is a serious economist not an eco-nut.

    The other double-counting to watch out for in future will be conflating this sort of consumption-based reporting with concern about China’s increasing emissions. Clearly, it’s the same thing. We are consuming more stuff from China so either China’s emissions as measured by production are rising very fast or our emissions measured by consumption are. And a bit of both (because Chinese consumption is up too), but whether consumption or production-based, the two sums add up to same thing globally.

    So the game is on, waiting for the first commentator to note that not only are China’s emissions rising rapidly but here in the West our emissions are much higher than official figures too – so we’re really really doomed.

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