China’s Pollution Is Our Fault


China is the world’s largest carbon dioxide polluter now. But don’t blame them. A third of their pollution comes from goods they manufacture for western countries like the United States and the United Kingdom.

In the light of this news, the debate arises as to how we ought to regulate carbon emissions:

Guardian: Developing countries are under pressure to commit to binding emissions cuts in Copenhagen. But China is resistant, partly because it does not accept responsibility for the emissions involved in producing goods for foreign markets.

Under Kyoto, emissions are allocated to the country where they are produced. By these rules, the UK can claim to have reduced emissions by about 18% since 1990 – more than sufficient to meet its Kyoto target.

But research published last year by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI) suggests that, once imports, exports and international transport are accounted for, the real change for the UK has been a rise in emissions of more than 20%.

China, as the world’s biggest export manufacturer, is key to explaining this kind of discrepancy. According to Glen Peters, one of the authors of the new report at Oslo’s Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research, about 9% of total Chinese emissions are the result of manufacturing goods for the US, and 6% are from producing goods for Europe.

Academics and campaigners increasingly say responsibility for these emissions lies with the consumer countries.