Imports, exports and emissions

Posted by Laura Grant on February 25, 2009
Posted in Green News

China may have overtaken the United States as the world’s biggest carbon emitter, but a significant amount of its emissions are a result of producing goods for consumers in western countries.

China’s carbon dioxide emissions increased by 45 percent from 2002 to 2005, but half was due to the production of exports, 60 percent of which went to western countries, according to a new report, “Journey to world top emitter”, to be published in Geophysical Research Letters.

Electronic products, metals, chemicals, and machinery were the export products contributing largely to the increase.

Only 7 percent of the emissions increase was triggered by household consumption in China, researchers from the University of Cambridge, the Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo (CICERO), Carnegie Mellon University, and the University of Leeds found.

Rich countries are contributing to the emission increases in developing nations, but this is not accounted for in international negotiations, CICERO says in a statement.

International climate agreements do not account for how emissions cross national borders because of imports and exports. In the Kyoto Protocol, every country is responsible for emissions on its own territory, it adds.

“It is important to take at least some responsibility for problems that we cause indirectly in other countries,” says Glen Peters, a researcher at CICERO.

“We do not need to completely redesign Kyoto, but we could include incremental changes that address carbon leakage [the process where a country reduces emissions on its own territory but increases imports] and competitiveness concerns.

“Climate policy could be designed in similar ways to existing tax policy. For example, we could design carbon taxes in a similar way to value-added taxation which covers imported products. In that way the consumer would pay for the emissions caused by his or her consumption,” says Peters.

Source: CICERO

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