Although China has recently surpassed the United States as the world’s biggest CO2 emitter in 2007, new research shows that about a third of all Chinese carbon emissions are caused by the manufacturing of goods for other countries, particularly developed nations such as the United Kingdom and the United States.
The study, which will be published in the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters
, calls attention to “offshored emissions” as a key issue that needs to be resolved at this year’s United Nations Climate Change Conference
in Copenhagen, where world leaders will attempt to establish a treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol. Offshored emissions are those that are created as a result of manufacturing products for export.
Under Kyoto, the country that produces the emissions takes responsibility for it. By these rules, developed countries such as the UK can claim to have reduced emissions by about 18% since 1990. However, if we take into account these “offshored emissions,” the pollution caused by the manufacture abroad of products for export to the UK, the UK’s emissions have actually risen 20%, according to research published last year by the Stockholm Environment Institute
China, as the world's biggest export manufacturer, is particularly resistant to the call for emission cuts, arguing that it should not have to accept responsibility for the emissions involved in producing goods for foreign markets.
There is an increasing sentiment amongst academics and environmental activists that the responsibility for these emissions should in fact lie with the consumer countries, although it is still unclear how exact national figures would be calculated. It is also alleged that China’s weak pollution controls is one of the reasons Western businesses are attracted to doing business there.
To put these UK numbers in perspective, whereas 6% of total Chinese emissions are the result of manufacturing goods for all of Europe, about 9% are from producing goods just for the US, according to Glen Peters, one of the authors of the new report at Oslo’s Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research