Over the past fifteen years, we worked to radicalise environmental debate in the UK, giving others the space to push for deeper change in policy, attitudes and values. This has ranged from highlighting the urgency of the problems we face (in Climate Safety and The Green Investment Gap) to producing pioneering research into the potential for transforming our energy system (in Zero Carbon Britain and The Offshore Valuation) to advocating radical policy solutions (in Energy Bonds and Carbon Omissions).
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.
Today’s paper includes a piece by nef’s Andrew Simms who argues for the problem to be tackled head-on:
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.
George Monbiot’s Guardian column today focuses on the scandal of the UK’s outsourced emissions, with a plug for our ongoing investigation.
The Guardian’s Duncan Clark has today penned a piece on the Carbon Trust’s new data showing how UK carbon emissions will continue to rise when imports are factored in.
Asked for our response, we told him: “Until government starts accounting for outsourced emissions officially, it’s continuing to tell a convenient lie about the true scale of our carbon addiction.”
This piece was originally published on Left Food Forward.
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.
This year, PIRC turns forty.
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
There’s been a flurry of media interest in outsourced emissions in recent weeks, here’s a quick round-up:
- The Guardian’s DataBlog have done some number-crunching on how international trade changes the picture of who’s responsible for emissions.
- They’ve also added to their Climate Change FAQ with an entry, ‘What are outsourced emissions?’
- It’s not just the lefty press covering this though – even the Economist has run a story on it.
- And nef’s Andrew Simms has done a piece attacking the current official emissions accounting system as being ‘mad as a hatter’.
Ro Randall is founder and director of Cambridge Carbon Footprint, a Cambridge based charity that uses approaches drawn from psychotherapy and community work to engage diverse audiences in work on climate change. She blogs at rorandall.org.
Behaviour change is the new black – although the idea has been around for a while it is increasingly the mantra of those working on climate change. Funders are interested in it. Government swears by it. Researchers puzzle over it. Voluntary organisations take it as their agenda. What’s not to like?
Lots. Read more
How well do you know your BIG history?
h/t Greenfyre, we’re glad he”s back.
This piece was originally published on the 10:10 blog.
Factoid of the day: China builds about 8 coal power stations a month. Lesser known fact: roughly 2-3 of these power stations are built to make stuff for us in the rest of the world to consume. That’s right: between a quarter and a third of China’s emissions are ultimately the responsibility of us shoppers in the west and elsewhere. China may be the world’s biggest emitter, but it is also the world’s workshop – meaning we’ve happily outsourced a big chunk of our carbon eastwards.
The UK’s total emissions are set to rise, PIRC can reveal – as shown in yet-to-be-published calculations by the government’s Carbon Trust.
Whilst on paper, Britain’s carbon emissions have declined, in reality they have grown – once emissions from imported goods are factored in. From a consumption perspective, the UK’s emissions have risen by 19% since 1990. New data from the Carbon Trust shows that by 2025 the UK’s total carbon footprint could actually be bigger than it is today, despite legally-binding targets to cut it by a third. Whilst domestic emissions will look smaller, almost half of the country’s footprint will be unseen, as the emissions will originate overseas.
A striking new study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Scientists finds that rich countries’ emissions cuts under the Kyoto Protocol have been far outweighed by the growth in outsourced emissions driven by rising consumption. Duncan Clark at the Guardian reports.