Skip to main content

UK consuming a third more CO2 than in 1990

World Coal,

The UK’s Kyoto target is to cut its production of CO2 to 12.5% below 1990 levels.

But figures in Policy Exchange’s new research note, Carbon Omissions, confirm that Britain is actually consuming almost a third more CO2 than it was in 1990. The difference is that much of the carbon consumed in the UK and EU is ‘embedded’ in products imported from countries such as China. In effect, the UK has ‘off shored’ much of its potential impact on the climate.

The findings call into question claims that Britain is leading the way on carbon reduction and the battle against climate change.

Policy Exchange’s analysis also finds the EU has increased its carbon consumption by almost half meaning that by 2005 a third of the EU’s CO2 consumption was imported.

This shows that the Kyoto system, and most current carbon reduction policies, are failing to address an increasingly large proportion of the EU’s and UK’s climate impact.

According to the official Kyoto based figures, UK carbon production is down 3% between 1990 and 2006. However, Policy Exchange Research Fellow Andrew Brinkley has discovered that total carbon consumption in the UK has increased by 30%.

For the EU as a whole, carbon production increased by just 3% between 1990 and 2006. But total carbon consumption, including for example, the carbon produced during the manufacture of steel exported from China to Europe, shot up by 47%.

In 2006, the latest year for which figures are available, the US and EU net imported a quantity of carbon embedded in imports per head (4 – 5 t) similar to China’s total carbon consumption per head of approximately 5 t per head.


Brinkley said, ‘they Kyoto carbon production figures ignore the way that a lot of industry has moved to China, which has a more carbon intensive economy. And our increasing consumption has been satisfied by importing its products.’

Simon Less, Policy Exchange’s Environment and Energy Research Director added, ‘one of the key objectives of current EU and UK climate policy is leadership through setting an example. But these figures suggest that the example set so far is pretty worthless.’

‘If the EU and UL policy is to properly address our climate impact, it must give greater relative priority to measures designed to have a global, not just domestic, impact. This should include focusing on developing and demonstrating new technologies with potential global impact like, for example, carbon capture and storage to help China reduce its heavy dependence on dirty, carbon intensive coal fired power stations.’

‘We also need to consider how to level the carbon playing field between domestic and imported goods to prevent carbon ‘leakage’, for example through a carbon tax which included tariffs on carbon intensive imported goods.’

Read the article online at:

You might also like


Embed article link: (copy the HTML code below):