3E Intelligence

In a recent post, I questioned the rationale of starting from national greenhouse gas emission figures in international climate change negotiations. The reason for my scepticism is, of course, the fact that in a globalised trade-centered world, CO2 emissions from one country can be caused by export demands from other countries.

The UK’s Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research has now confirmed this in a new briefing note “Who owns China’s carbon emissions?“. Here are some of the main conclusions of the Tyndall study:

  • 23% of China’s CO2 emissions in 2004 were due to demand from the West for manufacturing products made in the new economic giant. This 23% is as much as the combined emissions from Germany and Australia and more than twice the national emissions of the UK.
  • The study ” lends further weight to the view that OECD countries should take the lead in reducing emissions. Their historical responsibility for the majority of the carbon emissions is joined by some responsibility for more recent emissions growth in the developing world“.
  • The analysis also highlights “the imperfections of an approach which focuses on emissions within national borders. Whilst the nation state is at the heart of most international negotiations and treaties such as those for combating climate change, global trade means that a country’s carbon footprint is open to some interpretation. Should countries be concerned with emissions within their borders (as is currently the case), or should they also be responsible for emissions due to the production of goods and services they consume?
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  1. It’s recognised in the Odyssee indicator reports that part of Europe’s emission reductions come from exporting our heavy industry and importing back its products. I wonder what part of Europe’s 2010 greenhouse gas reductions could be attributed to this. And what will our real emissions be in 2010, not taking into account CDM credits, the windfall from integrating the EU-10 and ‘exported emissions’.

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