Tyndall report on China’s CO2 for exports

October 19, 2007 at 3:26 am | Posted in Carbon dioxide, China, CO2, Emissions, GHG emissions, Greenhouse gases, Reports, Tyndall | Leave a comment

This morning, the TODAY programme on BBC Radio 4 mentioned a new Tyndall report, (update: and it has now appeared on Tyndall’s feed) >>>

Links to the research source and briefing note follow:

Who is responsible for China’s growing emissions?

A quarter of China’s carbon emissions are from making goods for export to the already industrialised nations – that’s the equivalent of double the UK’s emissions for the same year – write Tao Wang and Jim Watson from Sussex University in the latest Tyndall Briefing Note

This briefing note is an initial assessment of the emissions from the goods and services that China exports and concludes that in 2004 – the latest full year of data – net exports accounted for 23% of its total CO2 emissions. This is due to China’s trade surplus and the relatively high level of carbon intensity within the Chinese economy.
» Read more: http://www.tyndall.ac.uk/research/programme2/task_2.1.html

» Further information: http://tyndall.webapp1.uea.ac.uk/publications/briefing_notes/bn23.pdf

Reports such as this highlight the twist in the consumer-producer tale.

Tyndall Briefing Note 23 addresses the concern that allocation of greenhouse gas emissions quotas within national boundaries—regardless of where products end up—is inappropriate, and posits an alternative, saying,

“the extent of ‘exported carbon’ from China should lead to some rethinking by government negotiators as they work towards a new climate change agreement. It suggests that a focus on emissions within national borders may miss the point. Whilst the nation state is at the heart of most international negotiations and treaties, global trade means that a country’s carbon footprint is international. 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?”

In a fantastic non-globalised world, wherein each country had its own atmospheric bubble whereby it were conveniently isolated from others, carving up responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions with a pen and piece of tracing paper laid upon a map could make sense; but no longer. The interconnections of actions, transactions and deliverables related to the lifestyles we have adopted in developed nations and our (lack of) responsibility for those in developing nations who serve our desires by churning out ever-cheaper products are at the heart of the matter.

Climate change cannot be addressed properly through solutions that assume each country is independent and its emissions are a direct result of its own population’s consumption habits. This is similar to the idea that we can achieve government targets for reducing waste sent to our landfills most easily by shipping our trash aka rubbish halfway round the world instead. Both solutions are accepted as fine, rather like sweeping dust under the carpet, but are recognised as ridiculous when the global picture is considered. There is no global landfill. Unfortunately, we have been using the atmosphere (airfill) and oceans (seafill) as dumping grounds too, for too long.

And now, our chickens have come home to roost …

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