The latest findings on carbon dioxide emissions by a group of scientists have the potential to change the mitigation math.
A quarter of the carbon dioxide emitted by developing countries is the result of producing goods that are later consumed in the developed world, the study has found. A fair global climate policy must account for this gap, say the authors.
“The point of our analysis is to reallocate global emissions based on consumption patterns, rather than production,” said Steven Davis, one of the authors and a global ecology researcher at the US-based Carnegie Institution of Washington. “India is a net exporter of emissions, producing 100 million tonne (mt)of carbon dioxide in 2004 that were consumed elsewhere.”
Most carbon emissions indices measure how much carbon dioxide each country produces. India is the world’s fourth largest producer, while China is the first.
But China and India’s carbon consumption — the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by producing goods and services used within these countries — is way below that of developed nations, the study has found.
Worldwide, 6.2 gigatonne, or nearly 23 per cent of the world’s carbon emissions, come from the production of goods that are traded internationally.
China exports the most carbon emissions, mostly in the form of machinery, electronics and apparel. India is the world’s sixth largest exporter of emissions, with much of the carbon coming from unclassified manufactured goods.
India’s carbon production is 1,293.17 mt, but only 1,264 mt are consumed in the country. India imported very little carbon in 2004, but exported 100 mt, close to 0.1 tonne per person. Total carbon production is only 1.16 tonne per person.
The US has the second highest per-capita consumption of all nations studied — 22 tonne per person in 2004. The highest per-capita emissions came from Luxembourg. The reports for that country, however, may be skewed because much of the population resides abroad.
The US is also the world’s biggest importer of carbon, the study found. About a tenth
of the county’s carbon consumption came from imported goods.
The results provide grounds for ethical arguments that the most developed countries should lead the global mitigation effort, say the authors.
Current climate and trade policies don’t account for this indirect trade in carbon.
“Consumption-based accounting of emissions shifts substantial emissions from emerging markets such as China and India to much less populous developed countries,” they say.
The study appeared Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.