Consumption-Based Emissions Reporting - Energy and Climate Change Contents

1  Introduction

1.  The responsibility for greenhouse gas emissions associated with the manufacture of goods and services can be attributed in a number of different ways: according to the territory in which they were physically emitted; according to where the good or service produced was consumed; or according to the emissions a country is responsible for historically. This inquiry explored the difference between the emissions physically produced in the UK (territorial emissions), and those emissions embedded in the goods we have consumed (consumption emissions).

2.  The main distinction between territorial-based and consumption-based measures is the treatment of emissions embodied in trade flows.[1] Consumption-based emissions reporting excludes emissions embodied in exports, but includes emissions embodied in imports.[2] Consumption emissions in the UK are published by Defra[3], while DECC base policy on—and report emissions performance on—a territorial basis.[4]

3.  DECC's 2011 statistics stated that GHG emissions calculated on a territorial basis fell almost 28% between 1990-2009,[5] and declined at around 1% per year between 1990 and 2008.[6] The Committee acknowledges the Government's achievements in this area, and commends DECC for its commitment to ambitious carbon budgets and targets. However, these emission reductions and targets were based upon emissions that have occurred within the UK's borders, and did not take into account the emissions embedded in goods that were consumed in the UK but produced elsewhere.

4.  DECC's exclusive focus on UK territorial emissions drove the Committee to explore what conclusions could be drawn about energy and climate change if emissions calculated on a consumption basis were also taken into account. The Committee sought to explore the contribution that a consideration of consumption emissions could make to a more holistic understanding of the greenhouse gas emissions the UK was responsible for. This included inquiry into an increased role for data on consumption-based emissions in policy, and the merits of setting targets for consumption emissions alongside the UK's existing territorial carbon budgets. The Committee was not seeking to change the territorial basis on which international negotiations on a climate change agreement, and EU emissions targets, were made. However, we noted that Scottish climate change legislation already requires Scottish Ministers to lay before the Scottish Parliament a report that must "set out the emission of greenhouse gases (whether in Scotland or elsewhere) which are produced by or otherwise associated with the consumption and use of goods and services in Scotland during that year".[7]

5.  As this report details, the evidence suggests that consideration of consumption-based emissions is complementary to the territorial approach. There is also evidence that the Government, or more specifically DECC, may be complacent about what it needs to do if it is basing energy and climate change policy on an incomplete picture of the UK's emissions. As the University of Leeds Professor John Barrett explained to us, the UK "measure[s] [emissions] from a territorial perspective so the emission has to have actually occurred [in the UK], and the thing we know about climate change is it doesn't actually matter where the tonne occurs".[8] The Committee agrees with WWF-UK's Dr Keith Allot who added, "I think we have a huge responsibility in the UK to show leadership, however you measure the metrics of the UK's footprint".[9]

1   Ev w27 Back

2   Ev w27 Back

3   Defra, UK's Carbon Footprint-Carbon dioxide emissions relating to UK consumption, Back

4   DECC, UK Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Back

5   DECC,UK Climate Change Sustainable Development Indicator, 31 March 2011, p 10 Back

6   Ev 46 Back

7   SP Act Climate Change (Scotland) 2009 Back

8   Q 6 Back

9   Q 61 Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2012
Prepared 18 April 2012