Monday, 6 September 2010

More figure fiddling

I noted in passing a month or so ago that we cannot simply export our carbon emissions by shifting manufacturing to China or India. The emissions cost of the goods and services we consume must still be counted as part of our total, even if the actual emissions occur elsewhere.

It seems from this report, however, that the government has been trying to fiddle the figures by only counting emissions which actually occur in the UK. And on the basis of that little conjuring trick, they've announced that the UK is succeeding in reducing its carbon footprint.

It's good to see that their own chief environment scientist is challenging them on this. Exporting our manufacturing industry, increasing our consumption of manufactured goods, and then claiming that China and India are responsible for increasing global levels of CO2 whilst we are achieving a reduction is downright dishonest.

I accept, as the report notes, that counting 'embedded' carbon costs is not going to be a straightforward exercise, but if we are to be really honest about the true size of our carbon footprint, it's an essential step to take. Saying, as the government has, that we don't have jurisdiction over the carbon content of imports may be a true statement, but it misses the point. The issue isn't jurisdiction, it's responsibility. And we all have to take responsibility for the resources we use.

There is another aspect to the way in which our carbon costs are artificially reduced as well, of course. The carbon cost of overseas military activity is completely excluded from the figures. So all the fuel and high explosive being used in Afghanistan is counted at zero carbon cost as far as the UK Government is concerned. Another way of avoiding our enviromental responsibilities.

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