UK's consumption-based emissions analysis challenges conventional wisdom
Carbon emissions of a country have been calculated on the basis of production of goods and services, until now. Emission control has been seen as a case of management at sectoral fronts like electricity and transport. A study reveals the futility of such supply-side tinkering
Carbon footprint of total production of goods and services in the UK is 164 MtC (million tonnes of carbon). But its total consumption has an emission footprint of 176.4 MtC, making the UK a net importer of carbon-intensive products. It passes on 11.7 MtC of emission to other countries
Many products and services generate more emissions from their use than the emissions created during their production.For example, motor vehicles emissions from production is smaller than drilling, refining, transport of the fuel plus the emissions from driving the vehicle over its lifetime. Or take clothing. Emissions from manufacturing is smaller than those from electricity used in washing, drying and ironing the clothes in their lifetime
When emissions from the process of production and distribution and lifetime use is included for any particular type of consumption, high-level (expensive) products and services are guilty of maximum carbon emissions
Surprisingly, recreation and leisure, space heating and, food and catering account for almost half of the UK's total carbon emissions
A calculation of the production-based traditional view of carbon emissions shows that electricity production is the single biggest emitter, amounting to 24 MtC, almost three times the amount of the second-highest emitter category of 'other land transport' at 7.7 MtC, followed by the 'refining industries' category at 7.1 MtC
Conversely, an analysis of the 'consumption-based view' of all economic activities showed that the construction industry was the highest carbon emitter at 10.7 MtC, showing the high carbon footprint of building materials
The consumption-based approach for analysing carbon emissions provides a new perspective to the existing evidence base for carbon management and policy intervention. This stresses that to meet long-term emissions reduction targets, it will be necessary to change current patterns of consumption
Source The Carbon emissions generated in all that we consume, Carbon Trust, January 30, 2006
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