MPs have stepped up the pressure on government Ministers to take responsibility for the UK’s outsourced carbon emissions, in a series of developments today.
This morning, the parliamentary Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) published its report on carbon budgets, calling on government to review its current method of reporting emissions, and instead report on the total emissions resulting from our consumption.
Media content and imagery often provides the raw material most of us use for making sense of the world. They also have a knock-on effect on our political institutions: what people perceive and believe, and at least as importantly what politicians think they believe, is likely to limit the perception of political space and impetus for political action. The media matters, in other words.
With this in mind, PIRC was particularly interested in examining the ways in which renewable energy was covered during periods of particular focus over 2009. While the – predominantly contrived – debate over climate science has since taken centre stage in the denial lobby’s efforts to impede effective action, during important policy debates in 2009 and since, media attention to renewable energy has arguably played an equally significant role.
To illuminate what kind of role this was, PIRC examined coverage of renewables across four major British newspapers in July 2009 – the month that saw the release of the Government’s Renewable Energy Strategy.
You almost certainly won’t have spotted the publication of Defra’s new set of statistics on agriculture and climate change yesterday. But before you nod off, check out this clever piece of spin by the statisticians.
The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) is the UK government’s independent advisor on greenhouse gas emissions. Yet at present it is being prevented from investigating the ongoing rise in UK emissions.
As Left Foot Forward reported earlier this year, the UK’s carbon emissions continue to rise when viewed from a consumption perspective: domestic emissions are down, but our lifestyles are as dependent on carbon as ever, as can be seen once you factor in imported goods and services.
In an interview in today”s Guardian, DECC Minister Greg Barker has finally come clean about the need to tackle outsourced emissions:
“The big shift in thinking on climate change policy is a recognition that we need to rebalance our economy. But decarbonisation must not mean de-industrialisation,” he said. “On the contrary, we actually need to build an economy that has more advanced manufacturing where we stop just reducing our carbon emissions by sending stuff offshore to less regulated markets and actually see the energy challenge of the next two decades as a real opportunity to see more advanced manufacturing here in the UK, importing less and looking to successful advanced economies like Germany as the way forward rather than thinking we can simply be ever more dependent on the services sector.”
All well and good, but where”s the beef? What”s DECC actually doing to ensure we stop outsourcing pollution, and start tackling high-carbon consumption?
PIRC has submitted written evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC)’s inquiry into carbon budgets. We suggest to the EAC that existing carbon budgets fail to account for outsourced emissions, and that this demands immediate attention by the Government.
You can read our submission online here or download a PDF copy here.
A version of this piece, by Alex Randall and Guy Shrubsole, first appeared on Liberal Conspiracy.
The news that global emissions continue to skyrocket is a solemn reminder that climate change, though absent from the headlines of late, remains the world’s most intractable and urgent problem.
One might think, given the government’s recent announcement of targets to cut Britain’s emissions in half by 2025, that we have our own house fully in order. Think again – the new targets contain a major loophole allowing our emissions to carry on going up, even while the government claim they are going down.
In yesterday’s Guardian, Sir David King, former Government Chief Scientist, called on rich nations to tackle the emissions they outsourced overseas:
Sir David King, director of the Smith School of Enterprise at the University of Oxford and former chief scientific advisor to the UK government, said the emissions rise showed how developed countries had exported their greenhouse gases to the developing world. This is because the migration of heavy manufacturing industry to developing countries has raised emissions in emerging economies, while rich countries still benefit from the results as they buy back the manufactured goods. More emissions are associated with the manufacture of most modern goods than with their use… Forthcoming research led by King that sets out these problems in detail chimes with studies from the Carbon Trust and others that have found similar effects.
Stop using fantasy carbon accounting that allows rich countries to “offshore” their emissions. The current system dumps responsibility for the pollution created by manufacturing goods on the exporting country, not on the country that demanded and ultimately consumes the product. It allows countries like the UK to look much better than we really are, creating an illusion of progress and resulting in complacency.
The Carbon Trust has today released new data revealing how the UK’s total carbon emissions are likely to rise into the 2020s, despite legally-binding targets to cut domestic emissions by a third.
The figures, shown in the graph below and available for download here, have been calculated by including emissions embodied in the goods and services that the UK imports – often called ‘outsourced emissions’ – and adding these to the official tally of domestic emissions.
This is a guest post from Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Energy Campaigner, Beth Stratford.
The Scotsman printed a two page spread in the lead up to the Scottish election warning that the SNP’s target for 100% renewable electricity by 2020 would ‘wreak significant damage on the Scottish Labour market’, citing as evidence a report called ‘Worth The Candle?’ by Verso Economics, which concluded that for every job created in the renewable sector, 3.7 are destroyed elsewhere in the economy.
But this head-line grabbing statistic, which has been picked up at full tilt by nimbies and climate sceptics, deserves some closer scrutiny.
We were founded in 1971 by campaigner Charles Medawar and veteran social entrepreneur Michael Young, who also set up, amongst many other organisations, the Open University. PIRC’s creation was inspired by the work of legendary US civic activist Ralph Nader, and it was his brand of activism – using careful research and cogent advocacy to empower citizens and hold governments and companies to account – that Medawar and Young sought to bring to British shores.
PIRC in its 1970s incarnation, replete with cool hair. Read more