Almost 50% of the UK’s carbon footprint comes from overseas emissions
17th April 2020 | Commercial Energy
Almost 50% of the UK’s carbon footprint comes from emissions released overseas to satisfy UK-based consumption, according to a new report by the WWF. According to the report, products including clothing, processed foods and electronics imported into the UK are counted as the manufacturing country’s emissions, not the UK’s, although they would not have been produced were it not for UK demand.
The report says that these emissions account for 46% of the UK’s carbon footprint yet are not currently covered by national reporting or included in the UK’s net-zero target. Between 1990 and 2016 emissions within the UK’s borders reduced by 41% but the consumption-based footprint only dropped 15%, mainly due to goods and services coming from abroad.
The report also found that six sectors contributed to almost half (46%) of the UK’s carbon footprint – a combination of domestic emissions and those from UK consumption emitted abroad: heating homes (9.7%), car fuel (8.6%), electricity (8%), construction (6.7%), agriculture (6.6%) and air travel (5.9%). However, only the largest three of these are associated with sectors which are expected to fully decarbonise domestically by 2050 under the UK Committee on Climate Change’s pathway to decarbonisation.
The WWF report, Carbon Footprint: Exploring the UK’s contribution to climate change, highlights the importance of addressing carbon-intensive import such as animal feed and fossil fuels, which fuel our cars and heat our homes. Dr Stephen Cornelius, chief climate change adviser at WWF, said, “Climate change is a global problem that needs a global solution. The UK has committed to net zero emissions and a credible plan to achieve this is one that tackles emissions based on what we consume, as well as that we produce.
“We need to be honest about our emissions – that means tackling those in the goods and services we buy in, not just the ones we make here. As an influential nation which has shown it can act as a global leader on climate change before, we have the ability to take responsibility for emissions that are down to UK demand alone.”
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