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  • Sep 22, 2014
  • Updated: 10:19pm

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.


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In substance, ownership of factories in China is not whose name is on the business license . It is who is paying the bills to include salaries, profits and more. This put the foreign investors – Apple and the likes squarely the ultimately are the owner of factories in China.
It is precisely the counter argument that attracts the shipping of the polluting factories to China in order skirting the environment standard set by EPD at home. Dishonest indeed.
It is meaningless to question about who owns those factories in China. It only just to blame the Chinese. Dishonest too.
@jpinst - "Who owns all the factories? Not foreigners, that's for sure....."
Who owns all the firms (Walmart, Apple, etc)? Not locals, that's for sure...
Right, and if the Chinese or Taiwanese owner of the factory relocates it to Vietnam, then those same companies will buy from the factory in Vietnam. China has the advantage of cheap labor, which is why so many companies import products from China. However, the manufacturer's profit margins are increased by refusing to follow environmental regulations and refusing to install or use pollution control devices. Who is responsible for that? Does China have environmental regulations? They have a lot. Why are they not enforced? Would that make China less competitive? There is much more to this story than the simple conclusion that rests on the premise that Developed nations are guilty.
yes, the richer countries should pay a "pollution tax"....just like airlines charge all kind of extras.
This is complete nonsense. Factories in Europe and US were producing a lot of stuff in the 1970s and 1980s and the pollution was not nearly as bad as in China.
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.
New York Times, right now "page one"...... "China Exports Pollution to US, Study Finds"....by Edward Wong.....Emissions from China's export industries are carried across the Pacific to the United States". Same study?
And China could have said no
Instead they like taking greenbacks instead
I don’t think the general public is in the know for sure why US would move its few industries to China. The relocating polluting industries could be just a convenient measure that suited a political grand plan. It was Nixon and Mao need the rapprochement between America and China to counter balance Soviet Union. And perhaps it needed economic support for the rapprochement to last. Very shortly, Deng began his grand plan of economic reform. What the west did including IMF. WTO and will also add the Trilateral Commission may either used or created the open door opportunity to charge the world into a single monetary system. For years, I have believed that China’s participation in the world’s economy is no accident but by design of the west and acquiesced by China. The exporting of polluted industries and the acceptance of them in China unfortunately is the route to the state of current affair that began politically but ending economically that may still has a political agenda to grind.




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