Carbon emissions from goods imported and consumed in the UK are rising more quickly than greenhouse gases are being cut domestically, MPs have warned.
The Energy and Climate Change Committee warned that “outsourcing” of pollution to other countries meant the UK’s record on cutting greenhouse gases was not as good as official figures suggested, and called on the Government to be open about the issue.
The committee said most emissions reductions since 1990 were the result of switching from coal to gas for electricity generation and manufacturing moving abroad to places such as China where goods are made for western markets – and not policies to tackle climate change.
A report by the committee warned that while the carbon dioxide emissions generated at home fell by 19% between 1990 and 2008, according to official figures, other Government research shows the UK’s “carbon footprint” associated with what the country consumes grew by 20%.
The MPs also said they had seen no evidence that investment decisions by industries that are big electricity users were being influenced by climate policies – which some have claimed will push heavy industry abroad.
The committee said compensation for electricity-intensive industry promised by the Government for the cost of electricity – which is largely driven by fossil fuel price volatility, not green policies – was unnecessary. If the Government goes ahead with compensation, industry must offer clear commitments to improve energy efficiency, the MPs demanded.
Committee chairman Tim Yeo said: “The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) likes to argue that the UK is only responsible for 2% of the world’s CO2 emissions, but the Government’s own research shows this not to be the case. We get through more consumer goods than ever before in the UK and this is pushing up emissions in manufacturing countries like China.”