The UK Government has published a report regarding the UKs carbon footprint, including both domestic emissions and emissions that are sourced from overseas, primarily through imported products.
The UKs carbon emissions are on average falling each year, between 2015 and 2016 this footprint was estimated to have fallen by 6%. Domestic emissions peaked in 2007 and by 2016 this had fallen by 21%. Although domestic emissions continue to fall, greenhouse gas emissions relating to imports rose by 28% from 1997 to 2016, indicating a clear issue. These are referred to as ‘consumption emissions’ and relate to the footprint such goods and services have, wherever they are produced along the supply chain. As the UK has moved to a service economy, manufacturing has continued to decline and we now import much more goods from abroad.
When assessing total UK emissions relating to consumption, 2016 emissions are 3% lower compared with 1997. The biggest contributor to this decline is UK-produced goods, which has seen emissions drop by 35% since 1997. Households have seen emissions stay relatively stable, though cold winters do produce large fluctuations. Although as stated above the UK has seen significant increases in imported emissions from 1997 – 2016, these peaked in 2007. Compared with 2007, 2016 saw a reduction of 21%, indicating that improvements have been made in recent years.
The statistics the report is based on have been labelled as ‘experimental’, indicating the difficulties that are involved with compiling data for consumption emissions imported from abroad. The holistic nature of climate change means that such reporting mechanisms are highly necessary but still at a relative immature stage. As such, the reports data should not be treated as gospel. The report was published by the Department of Environment, Food & Rural Affairs in April 2019.
Full report published by DEFRA: