It's Not You, It's Me: 33% of China's CO2 Emissions From Export Manufacturing

flat screen televisions for sale photo

photo by Adam Lederer

I’d like to continue the conversation begun (most recently) by the Stockholm Environment Institute, when they claimed that the UK’s carbon emissions are 49% higher than claimed by government because so much manufacturing has been shipped to low-wage countries.

New research coming out of Carnegie Mellon University shows that the amount of China’s carbon emissions—which, in case you hadn’t heard are now the largest in the world—coming from export-led manufacturing is higher than previously thought. In fact 33% of China’s emissions come from manufacturing goods intended for overseas sale. This means that in 2005, the most recent year for which data is available, China’s export sector emitted 1.7 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. Of that, 22% of emissions came from the electronics sector, a figure which has nearly doubled over the past two decades.

China Imports More Goods, Emissions Tacked to Other Nations' Accounts
However, it's not just developed countries who play pass the buck with carbon emissions. As China shifts from being a producer of primary goods, to one who manufactures secondary goods, its imports rise, along with its exports.

...from 1987 to 2005, the share of domestic CO2 emissions avoided by China as a result of buying imports has climbed mightily: from a little more than 19% of the CO2 releases that would have been projected on the basis of China’s activities to a whopping 43.7% of the total.

In other words, by 2005 more than 40% of the greenhouse-gas emissions associated with China’s activities — including the manufacturing of goods for export — were incurred elsewhere, and before Chinese companies laid their hands on these feedstocks, components, or manufacturing machinery.

Global Warming Solutions Needs Global Approach
What this says to me, reinforcing the SEI research, is that controlling carbon emissions and dealing with global warming needs to be done on a global basis. It serves absolutely no good to finger point at China (or India or Vietnam or Indonesia), saying that they need to reduce carbon emissions, without also recognizing that their emissions would be markedly lower if it weren’t for manufacturing of consumer goods for sale overseas. Nationalistic hand wringing on this one will only hurt all of us. True lifecycle assessment of the carbon intensity of our global supply chains are needed.

via :: New Scientist and :: Science News
China, Climate Change
China Gets Dubious Honor of World’s #1 CO2 Emitter
Carbon Emissions in UK 49% Higher Than Acknowledged: New Report Claims
Carbon Dioxide Emissions are Rapidly Accelerating, According to the Earth Policy Institute

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