The Global Warming Blame Game

| 2/23/2009 3:48:17 PM

Blame for China’s soaring carbon emissions is being tossed between East and West like a political hot potato in a debate that illustrates just how tricky international climate negotiations can be.

The Guardian reports on a new study that found that manufacturing of exports, many of which are shipped off to developed countries, is responsible for approximately one-third of China’s overall emissions and half of their recent spike in emissions.

So whose footprint should these emissions be tacked-on to—China’s, the producer, or nations like the U.S. and the U.K., the consumers? Under the Kyoto treaty, they go to the producer, but China doesn’t think it should be held accountable for emissions generated by the demands of foreign markets, and others agree.

“Focusing on consumption rather than production of emissions is the only intellectually and ethically sound solution,” Dieter Helm, an Oxford economics professor told the Guardian. “We've simply outsourced our production.”

Indeed, the map of liability generated by the Kyoto system doesn’t seem to tell an entirely truthful story. “By these rules, the UK can claim to have reduced emissions by about 18% since 1990—more than sufficient to meet its Kyoto target,” according to the Guardian. “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%.”

Business Green points out that this latest study follows similar reports published last year, and could give China greater bargaining power in climate talks to be held in Copenhagen later this year.

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