Why 'Made in China' should increase our carbon footprint

Oct 19, 2007

Nearly a quarter of China's carbon emissions are created by goods manufactured and exported to Western consumers, according to research by University of Sussex climate change analysts Dr Tao Wang and Dr Jim Watson.

The study, carried out for the Tyndall Centre, suggests that counting carbon emissions within national borders, as is currently the case under the Kyoto Protocol, may be inadequate in deciding who is responsible for emissions reduction. Fair, globalised trade might imply that a nation's entire carbon footprint should also include imported goods and services manufactured elsewhere.

Dr Watson says: "In November 2006 the world's largest container ship, the Emma Maersk, sailed into Felixstowe Docks in the UK, laden with 11,000 containers full of Christmas goods. Is the CO2 emitted from the manufacture and shipping of all those items down to China, or the UK?"

The researchers calculated the carbon emissions of China's net exports in 2004, the most recent year of full data. Their results may be conservative because between 2004 and 2006, China's trade surplus (the value of exports minus imports) increased substantially.

China is now believed to be the world's largest emitter of carbon dioxide, having overtaken the United States. Dr Wang said: "Although exports of carbon intensive products such as rolled steel and aluminium are increasing at more than 50% annually, the majority of China's trade surplus comes from less carbon intensive goods such as textiles and consumer electronics. But the government's efforts to reduce the expansion of exports are so far ineffective due to high international demand"

Their analysis provides evidence that not only are industrialised countries historically responsible for the majority of carbon emissions to date, but they may also have significant responsibility for driving the rapid growth in emissions from countries in the process of industrialisation, such as China.

The United States in particular argues against industrialised countries reducing their emissions unless new economies, such as China and India, follow suit. The US is the top destination for exports of Chinese-made goods.

Dr Watson says: "Our results strengthen the argument that industrialised countries should move first to make real progress in cutting their carbon emissions - and also help nations like China and India to shift to a more low carbon path of development."

Source: University of Sussex

Explore further: Pipeline that leaked wasn't equipped with auto shut-off

Related Stories

Q&A: Why are antibiotics used in livestock?

7 hours ago

Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer, is the latest company to ask its suppliers to curb the use of antibiotics in farm animals. Here's a rundown of what's driving the decision: ...

Recommended for you

Pipeline that leaked wasn't equipped with auto shut-off

23 hours ago

The pipeline that leaked thousands of gallons of oil on the California coast was the only pipe of its kind in the county not required to have an automatic shut-off valve because of a court fight nearly three ...

California farmers agree to drastically cut water use

May 23, 2015

California farmers who hold some of the state's strongest water rights avoided the threat of deep mandatory cuts when the state accepted their proposal to voluntarily reduce consumption by 25 percent amid ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.