Britain exporting CO2 emissions abroad, says scientist

| 1st October 2009
Domestic carbon emission reductions are being offset by increased emissions in countries like India and China through the consumption of imported goods and services

Britain's greenhouse gas emissions are actually twice as high as current estimates says the Government's new chief energy scientist.

Speaking to the BBC, Professor David MacKay said we were exporting a large part of our carbon emissions to developing countries.

'Our energy footprint has decreased over the last few decades and that's largely because we've exported our industry,' he said.

'Other countries make stuff for us so we have naughty, naughty China and India out of control with rising emissions but it's because they are making our stuff for us now,' he said.

Exporting emissions

According to research from the Center for International Climate and Environmental Research in Oslo, published last summer, carbon dioxide emissions associated with UK consumption increased by 115 million tonnes (18 per cent), between 1992 and 2004.

In the same period, carbon dioxide emissions embedded in imports went up from 35 per cent of UK emissions in 1992 to 67 per cent in 2004.

Professor Mackay also said that historically, Britain was among the top three worst polluters in the world along with America and Germany.

He said in the early 1900s Britain was burning per capita the same amount as Americans do today.

His revelation is a significant departure from Government policy, which has always maintained that the UK is only reponsible for emissions within its national boundaries.

Useful links
Center for International Climate and Environmental Research
Journey to world top emitter: An analysis of the driving forces of China's recent CO2 emissions surge

See also

More from this author


The Ecologist has a formidable reputation built on fifty years of investigative journalism and compelling commentary from writers across the world. Now, as we face the compound crises of climate breakdown, biodiversity collapse and social injustice, the need for rigorous, trusted and ethical journalism has never been greater. This is the moment to consolidate, connect and rise to meet the challenges of our changing world. The Ecologist is owned and published by the Resurgence Trust. Support The Resurgence Trust from as little as £1. Thank you. Donate now.