Azara Blog: UK emissions are allegedly a lot higher than the government pretends

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Date published: 2008/08/01

The BBC says:

The UK has been living under a delusion over its claim to be cutting greenhouse gases, according to two reports that will shake the climate change debate.

They show that instead of falling since the 1990s, UK greenhouse emissions have been growing in line with the economy.

This is dependent on emissions from aviation, shipping and imported goods being counted.

At the moment they are excluded under the internationally-agreed system for carbon accounts.

Both reports are from the respected Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) based at the University of York.
An SEI report to be published shortly by the campaign group WWF will suggest that the UK's total greenhouse gas emissions are 49% higher than reported emissions.

And a recent little-publicised report for the government department Defra showed that rather than going down 5% as ministers claimed, CO2 emissions have gone up 18% between 1992 and 2004 when all emissions are counted.

The government sat on the Defra SEI report since February, tested its calculations, then published it in an obscure press release on 2 July.

This confirms, as BBC News pointed out last year, that the UK's apparently virtuous carbon cuts have only been achieved because we are getting countries like China to do our dirty work.
John Barrett, author of the SEI reports to both Defra and WWF, said they could have implications for any post-Kyoto global climate deal.

"Holding China and India responsible for emissions from manufactured goods they sell to us is going to prove very hard to negotiate.

"It would be much easier to base any future deal on emissions at the point of consumption. That feeds into the equity debate in which poor countries will be allowed to increase their CO2.

"It's at the very least misleading for the UK government to claim reductions while we export our emissions. This is a problem no government wants to face.

"In emissions terms, we are constantly battling against increases of wealth. Every year, we don't even manage to improve our energy efficiency to keep up with wealth increases, let alone to cut emissions.

"There's a very fundamental problem here that no-one really wants to talk about."

All very obvious stuff, although the attempt at quantification is extremely useful (although one should never even come close to accepting the estimates of any one person or organisation). Funnily enough, it was the so-called environmentalists who first spread the myth that emissions growth could be decoupled from economic growth (all other factors being equal, which they never are, since the price of oil goes up and down). On the contrary, if you have more money, you will spend that money on what is effectively increased energy consumption, which means increased emissions (all other factors being equal). Money = Energy (to a reasonable approximation).

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