• Wed
  • Dec 24, 2014
  • Updated: 6:35pm

Rich nations outsourcing pollution to China, says UN report

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 January, 2014, 4:51am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 January, 2014, 9:15am

The world's richest countries are increasingly outsourcing their carbon pollution to China and other rising economies, according to a draft UN report.

The problem stems from electronic devices such as smartphones, cheap clothes and other goods being made in China and other rising economies but consumed in the US and Europe.

The draft of the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases warming the planet grew twice as fast in the first decade of the 21st century than during the previous three decades.

Much of that rise was due to the burning of coal. And much of that coal went to power factories in rising economies that produce goods for US and European consumers.

Since 2000, annual carbon dioxide emissions for rising economies more than doubled to nearly 14 billion tonnes a year, according to the draft report. But about 2 billion tonnes a year of that was produced making goods for export.

"A growing share of CO2 emissions from fossil fuel combustion in developing countries is released in the production of goods and services exported, notably from upper-middle income countries to high-income countries," the report says.

Other middle-income countries, with smaller exports, saw a more gradual rise in emissions. For the poorest countries in the world, however, emissions have flatlined since 1990.

Factories in China and other rising economies now produce more carbon pollution than industries in America and Europe.

"A growing share of global emissions is released in the manufacture of products that are traded across international borders," the draft says.

The newly wealthy elites of China, India and Brazil are flying more, buying more cars and otherwise fuelling the consumption that is driving climate change.

But their per capita greenhouse gas emissions are still below those in America and Europe, a gap that China and India regularly cite at climate talks to deflect pressure to cut emissions.

The outsourcing of emissions has skewed efforts to account for all global emissions, which typically was conducted on a national basis. Those accounting efforts are no longer accurate, according to analysts.

"If we are just looking at our national inventory to understand the emissions trends, it is just not telling the full picture of our impacts," said Cynthia Cummis, an expert on greenhouse gas accounting at the World Resources Institute. "We need to understand the full life cycle of all the goods and services that we are purchasing and selling.

"The consumers that are importing those goods have some responsibility for those goods that are happening outside of our boundaries," Cummis said.

The 29-page draft, a summary for policymakers, was dated December 17. An edited version is due to be published in Germany in April.

The report is the third in a series of reports by the IPCC, summing up the state of the climate crisis since 2007 and prospects for solutions. The first part was released in September.

The draft report is stark about the chances of avoiding dangerous climate change - especially if deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions are pushed back beyond 2030.

Temperatures have already risen by 0.8 degrees Celsius since the dawning of the industrial age, the report says.

Unless there are deep cuts in emissions - up to 70 per cent of current levels by 2050 - or a near-quadrupling of renewable energy, governments may have to fall back increasingly on experimental technologies for sucking carbon dioxide from the air to avoid dangerous warming, the report says.


Related topics

For unlimited access to:

SCMP.com SCMP Tablet Edition SCMP Mobile Edition 10-year news archive



This article is now closed to comments

Surprisingly, some of these arguments are valid. China has become the factory of the world, producing everything from cheap plastic toys to iPhones. Its intolerable level of pollution is the direct result of China's policy to attract foreign direct investments to promote economic growth and employment. Because of poor governance, industrial pollution has led to a ecological disaster across China. Who's to blame? Chinese government and its short-sighted policy is at the forefront. Any attempt to displace blame is futile and hypocritical!
Where are those stupid and vociferous hypocrites
who have long been blind to the undeniable origination of pollution
criticizing China for pollution that harms first and mostly Chinese people
who work hard to make cheap consumer products
that benefit ungrateful “western” hypocrites
who misconceive themselves as the first and only victims of
pollution from China?
It is obvious that US outsources polluting industries to circumvent the standard set by its EPA and that took place since the beginning of the 80s of last century. It is puzzling why it takes so long to acknowledge the outsourcing of pollution by US.
This UN may not have pointed out that transporting raw materials and finish products further creating air pollution in great magnitude. It is unnecessary or much less if goods are manufactured locally chosen for the least need for transportation for raw materials and finish products.

So what is US going to do about this report?
The American dream
first generation slave drivers, bootleggers and bookmakers
second generation preachers, policemen and mafia
third generation philanthropists, lawyers and senators
Contemporary drama of self-righteous HKers
a child asks the father:
“why are you making yourself dirty working in construction?”
father: “to earn the money for your education”
son: “why don’t you just get money from an ATM, clean and easy?”
father: “must put in money first”
son: “the government is wrong
not to have clean construction regulations in place
before it allows construction work
the bank is wrong that people must put in money first
before they could get money out from ATM
I'm entitled to be a philanthropist before I earn my first dollar”
That's a stupid argument. If the U.S. can make the widget for $5 to sell in the domestic market, but in China with cheap labor, and no environmental concerns, the Chinese factory owner can make it for $1, the U.S. company cannot compete. Instead he will buy the widget for $1 from the Chinese factory and import it. Nobody forced the Chinese to do anything, they [the government] intentionally suppressed wages and ignored the environment to make their factories more competitive. Now the place is a mess and the U.S.and Europe are to blame for buying the widgets from China? FU!
you have really no idea how to compare things. do you?
plus as sam.gillespie.184 indicate you're off facts too.
In the 80s, pollution was so bad in Los Angeles that in the morning that cars cannot see each other on the freeway. The city of Detroit started to publish the pollution index each morning and stopped abruptly for fear of a revolt because it was so high that scared people.
Who is forcing China to accept these polluting industries?
Corrupt African leaders allow their countries to be the dumping ground for developed countries' toxic waste. Whose fault is that?
Maybe the UN should look closer to home for the real source of blame.
Who owns all the factories? Not foreigners, that's for sure.....
Mass consumerism has to end and the buck presently rests with US and Western nations' economists who still preach that economic "growth" must continue eternally. Well it can't happen! Resources and the state of our planet as a habitable place, as we are belatedly finding out, are finite.
The argument over whether its carbon emissions or water vapour is causing climate change is academic. While we argue about this, we continue to poison the air we breathe and the water we drink.
see growthbusters - hooked on growth . youtube



SCMP.com Account