By Gemma Childe on 24th Apr 2012
Reliance on imported goods is increasing carbon emissions in countries such as China, despite cutting greenhouse gases at home, MPs have warned.
Experts have found that “outsourcing” of pollution overseas will damage the UK's record on carbon emissions.
The UK's carbon dioxide emissions dropped by 19 per cent between 1990 and 2008, but its carbon footprint grew by 20 per cent, based on UK consumption.
Switching from coal to gas for electricity generation has been one reason for the reduction in greenhouse gases since 1990. However, countries such as China often depend on coal-generated electricity to manufacture what is consumed in Britain.
Tim Yeo MP, the chairman of the Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee, said: "Successive governments have claimed to be cutting climate change emissions, but in fact a lot of pollution has simply been outsourced.
"We get through more consumer goods than ever before in the UK and this is pushing up emissions in manufacturing countries like China."
The committee has called for the Government to consider consumption-based emissions when designing climate change policies.
Keith Allott, head of climate change at the environmental charity WWF-UK, said: "However you measure the UK's emissions, it's clear that a lot more needs to be done to reduce them through improving energy efficiency and decarbonising the power sector through renewables, and also by reducing and managing our consumption."
The MPs asked the government to join forces with its independent climate advisers, the Committee on Climate Change, to work out how the UK could incorporate emissions from imported goods in its policies.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change believes negotiating a global reduction treaty on this basis would be complex because it is difficult to calculate and verify figures relating to consumption-based emissions.
A spokesman said: "We account for our emissions according to international rules that are followed by all countries that are signed up to the Kyoto Protocol, and that are the basis for international negotiations on climate change."