Home > News > General News

Government should be open about ‘outsourced emissions’ according to Committee

The Government should be straightforward about the impact that UK consumption is having on the world’s climate, according to a report from the Energy and Climate Change Committee.

The MPs warn that:

  • UK’s record on cutting greenhouse gases is not as good as DECC figures suggest
  • Carbon dioxide emissions from imported goods consumed in the UK are going up faster than Government is cutting CO2 at home
  • Government figures on consumption-based emissions – from imported goods – show that carbon dioxide emissions in 2009 were 20% higher than in 1990.


The Department for Energy and Climate Change’s (DECC) official CO2 figures – that count territorial emissions from power stations and transport, etc., within UK borders – show nearly  20% reduction between 1990-2009. But research commissioned by the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) reveals that CO2 emissions were 20% higher in 2009 if consumption based emissions –  from imported goods – are included.

The fall in territorial emissions was not mainly the consequence of the Government’s climate policy, according to the report. Rather it was the result of the shift in manufacturing industries away from the UK and the switch from coal to gas-fired electricity generation that began in the early 1990s. Since 1990 carbon dioxide emissions from imports have almost doubled (from 166 million tonnes (Mt) CO2 to 331 Mt CO2 in 2009).

If the UK wishes to encourage emissions reductions in countries that manufacture and export goods to the UK, the MPs say the Government should recognise the growth in the UK’s consumption-based emissions.  Acknowledging that UK consumption is driving up territorial emissions in other countries could increase the UK’s leverage over those emissions and help to secure a binding global agreement on carbon cuts.

The report concludes that the DECC should no longer rely exclusively on territorial emissions as its primary policy driver. There is sufficiently robust data available to develop new policy options and identify carbon-intensive behaviours that are overlooked by concentrating on territorial emissions alone. Ministers should explore the options for incorporating consumption-based emissions data in to the policy making process and setting emissions targets on a consumption-basis at the national level.

Source: Parliamentary business website

Related content