Skip to content

Almost half of UK’s carbon footprint down to ‘invisible’ emissions abroad

April 17, 2020

By Paul Homewood


h/t Philip Bratby



UK efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are being seriously undermined by the failure to account for rising carbon output in the countries where our goods are manufactured, a new report has warned.

Almost half of the UK’s carbon footprint – the total amount of greenhouse gas released in the production and consumption of all the goods and services – now comes from emissions released overseas for imported products including clothing, processed foods and electronics.

But the manufacture of these products is not used to calculate national emissions, and are instead counted as the manufacturing country’s emissions – even though they would not have been produced were it not for UK demand.

These “invisible” overseas emissions are also not currently included in the UK’s 2050 net zero target, while international aviation and shipping emissions are also excluded.

The new report, by WWF, found between 1990 and 2016 total emissions within the UK’s borders reduced by 41 per cent, but the consumption-based footprint only dropped 15 per cent, mainly due to goods and services coming from abroad.

Overall, 46 per cent of the UK’s carbon footprint in 2016 came from emissions released overseas to satisfy the nation’s consumption – a significant rise from 14 per cent in 1990. These emissions are not covered by UK domestic climate policy.

Dr Stephen Cornelius, chief climate change adviser at WWF, said: “Climate change is a global problem that needs a global solution. The UK has committed to net zero emissions and a credible plan to achieve this is one that tackles emissions based on what we consume, as well as what we produce.

“We need to be honest about our emissions – that means tackling those in the goods and services we buy in, not just the ones we make here. As an influential nation which has shown it can act as a global leader on climate change before, we have the ability to take responsibility for emissions that are down to UK demand alone.” 


As Philip points out, the imported solar panels and wind turbines we buy have a carbon footprint, so presumably these will have to be banned as well.

And I don’t suppose China will be too happy if the West stops buying all of their products, as it would destroy their economy, something the WWF does not seem to care about.


But at least exercises like these expose the lie that we can get to Net Zero by installing lots of lovely renewable energy, drive electric cars and plant a few trees.

The harsh reality is that we as a country will have to cut back and do without most of the things we take for granted in our lives now.

  1. April 17, 2020 6:34 pm

    Well done the WWF for proving that zero emissions are impossible to achieve

    • Ian Magness permalink
      April 17, 2020 7:18 pm

      Precisely so David! Looks like no-free-lunch penny has dropped. Carry on like this and the greens might suddenly realise the carbon dioxide creating fiasco that is the Drax process.

    • cajwbroomhill permalink
      April 17, 2020 8:26 pm

      A near-completely useless but definitely severely damaging process, though.

  2. grammarschoolman permalink
    April 17, 2020 6:46 pm

    I can’t help thinking that a lot of people in the West would be very happy if we could find a way to destroy China’s economy, after the month we’ve just had.

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      April 17, 2020 7:24 pm

      Not so sure that one would want the ‘people’ of China to suffer. I’d rather the oligarchs suffer: especially those who might be raking in a fortune from the West for things like PPE and face-masks that are not fit for purpose. That said, I’ve a feeling that some of the top echelons of PHE have fingers in PPE/Face-mask/ventilator manufacturers than they ought (IMHO).

      And when all the dust settles, there needs to be a rethink on how the Chinese have got such a colonialist hold on Africa and a monopoly on critical parts for windmills and batteries. The outcome of such a rethink should be that those businessmen in the West who would engage with China for profit over Country need to be exposed.

      In saying so, I can understand why Dyson, for example, moved his ops to Chinese territory (although he changed his mind later, I understand), the thing is, as Hillary Clinton did for US Uranium (flogging it to the Russians), there is danger in relying too much on China and using their resources for batteries. God help us if they ever get Fusion or MSRs before the West..

      • cajwbroomhill permalink
        April 18, 2020 10:10 am

        Ending the on-and offshore windturbine fiasco/fraud/ deceits is desperately needed anyway.

  3. Broadlands permalink
    April 17, 2020 6:46 pm

    Dr Stephen Cornelius, chief climate change adviser at WWF, said: “Climate change is a global problem that needs a global solution. The UK has committed to net zero emissions and a credible plan to achieve this is one that tackles emissions based on what we consume, as well as what we produce.”

    ” Simply put, ‘net zero’ means achieving an overall balance between emissions that are created and emissions that are taken out of the atmosphere.”

    The WWF (and many others) do not seem to understand that net zero means taking massive amounts of CO2 OUT of the atmosphere, not simply lowering carbon emissions…which take nothing from the atmosphere. And neither do renewables. Only industrial CCS technology can do that and it is woefully inadequate quantitatively.

  4. Tonyb permalink
    April 17, 2020 6:50 pm

    I am perfectly happy for us to continue the current lockout and destroy our economy if it will help to reduce soaring global temperatures by even one thousandths of a degree within 100 years

    Tonyb. ( owner ; hairshirts4U)

    • Mark F Lokowich permalink
      April 17, 2020 7:00 pm

      Do you get a bowl of soup with that hairshirt? .. It looks good on you, pal…

    • Harry Passfield permalink
      April 17, 2020 7:25 pm

      Irony, I guess – I hope.

      • Tonyb permalink
        April 17, 2020 8:08 pm

        I surely don’t need to put a sarc tag on a UK blog? Is there a pent up demand for hair shirts I should be exploiting?

      • Harry Passfield permalink
        April 17, 2020 9:30 pm

        No. I’ve long since learned that humour/irony (to my cost) does not survive emails/blogs. A writer’s emotion does not translate to the typed word on a screen.

  5. Curious George permalink
    April 17, 2020 6:55 pm

    As a result of rising carbon dioxide levels, the planet is greening. This dangerous development must be stopped at any price. I call all good Greens and Extinctionists to act immediately.

    • Chaswarnertoo permalink
      April 18, 2020 9:16 am

      And top themselves?

  6. Joe Public permalink
    April 17, 2020 7:32 pm

    We should never forget that some energy-intensive manufacturing was exported to countries whose processes were far less efficient than ours, but cheaper because they had fewer emissions-controls to which they had to adhere.

    The global effect was a net increase in emissions even before transportation was taken into account.

    • Broadlands permalink
      April 17, 2020 7:50 pm

      And now, because of the corona virus, emissions from transportation are down but the CO2 already added will continue to increase. It is the lower aerosol pollution that is clearing the air, not lower CO2 emissions. The problem with mandating lower carbon fuel emissions ASAP is that policy devastates society and economies, world-wide.

    • Phoenix44 permalink
      April 18, 2020 9:16 am

      All of which a carbon tax would prevent as the goods from China would then be more expensive than UK made goods. If we have to do anything, let it be a carbon tax.

      • April 18, 2020 10:32 am

        The EU is already mooting a carbon border tax, & for some bizarre reason it has the UK in its sights for this.

        To me it seems that this will end up making stuff more expensive for ordinary people, & if we end up with two bunches of countries, “Net Zero” and “Business As Usual”, which group will be more prosperous?

        Of course, the “Business As Usual” countries will benefit from the emission cuts of the “Net Zero” countries, if there are any benefits – while shouldering none of the costs.

  7. April 17, 2020 8:14 pm

    This is complete nonsense. This morning on the Today programme Transport Minister Grant Shapps spoke enthusiastically about the development of electric and hybrid civil transport aircraft in order to achieve net zero by 2050! He has absolutely no idea what he is talking about and this aspiration is unachievable. Electric power lifting 60 tonnes, 150 tonnes, 500 tonnes of airframe, cruising at 35000 feet or higher and crossing oceans? These people are completely deluded and are taking the electorate for idiots and yes this is our Transport Secretary supposedly planning our future transport policies? God help us.

    • April 17, 2020 10:39 pm

      From the Manhattan Institute The “New Energy Economy”: An Exercise in Magical Thinking:
      “The energy equivalent of the aviation fuel actually used by an aircraft flying to Asia [presumably from US] would take $60 million worth of Tesla-type batteries weighing five times more than that aircraft”.

      Click to access R-0319-MM.pdf

      • Paul H permalink
        April 18, 2020 12:28 pm

        …but it will be worth it.

    • Chaswarnertoo permalink
      April 18, 2020 9:18 am

      Grant Shapps is off his trolley.

    • Russ Wood permalink
      April 20, 2020 4:27 pm

      Well, for flight, we could always use lighter-than-air dirigibles! Like … er…. the Hindenburg?/

  8. hostelmandotcom permalink
    April 17, 2020 8:56 pm

    Dr Stephen Cornelius, chief climate change adviser at WWF, said:… He is a bloomin vet for heaven’s sake! What on earth does he know about climate, its origin and its history? Very little it is clear! He clearly does not seem to mind that there is no proven cause for the claimed effect he is paid to look worried and act all sage like over. He certainly knows zip about physics but then why should a vet know physics? Answer this one MUST if he is going to lecture us as a spokesman for yet one more left wing infected charity pushing politics. Oh pardon me….. he is a “scientist” one of those white coated boffins so he MUST know what he is being PAID to talk about! Notice how he avoids completely the herd of elephants in the room which are their IMPORTED gween energy sources (wind and solar) and their planet saving electric cars! The wilful disingenuousness of these people who will parrot anything totally outside of their expertise for money catches me in my craw! Why are people who do know what they are talking about not challenge such people?

    • saparonia permalink
      April 17, 2020 9:41 pm

      “scientist” equates to “religious leader” in this day and age.

    • Gamecock permalink
      April 18, 2020 1:57 pm

      And why would a World WILDLIFE Fund have a ‘chief climate change adviser?’

      Saving possums got too boring?

      • April 19, 2020 12:44 pm

        Self important & ignorant popinjays don’t cope well with isolation. They must pretend to be doing something.

  9. MrGrimNasty permalink
    April 17, 2020 8:59 pm

    A real black carbon footprint – instant BBQ menace strikes again, shortly to be blamed on climate change I expect.

    When will they be outlawed? Crazy fire risk and atrocious air pollution.

  10. Adam Gallon permalink
    April 17, 2020 9:11 pm

    You see, it’s still our fault & not those poor Chinese having to build more coal-fired power stations.

  11. saparonia permalink
    April 17, 2020 9:33 pm

    It amazes me that people can even think of zero carbon when volcanoes such as Krakatau and around the ring of fire are erupting and spewing carbon into the atmosphere. Without carbon dioxide we die because we need plants to breathe and carbon dioxide feeds them. We are going to need a lot more trees through the solar minimum.

  12. Coeur de Lion permalink
    April 17, 2020 10:23 pm

    Page 57 of the BP 2019 energy statistics report says that U.K. reduced CO2 by 3.4% between 2007 and 2017. Who’s right?

    • April 17, 2020 10:30 pm

      On the BP spreadsheet, CO2 was 568 MTco2 in 2007 and 400 MTco2 in 2017.

      A cut of 30%. Is P57 a misprint?

  13. April 18, 2020 1:33 am

    This is where the UN comes in. Global environmental issues require global response by a global environmental protection agency with authority to which nation states and elected governments have ceded legal powers so they can do the job. This is the the plan.

  14. April 18, 2020 10:34 am

    There seems to be a bit of ballyhoo about the non counting of our imports’ nasties in our ‘carbon footprint’ figures. Presumably they shoud equally deduct the relevant numbers caused by our production of anything we export. Is this being done ? And does it matter ?

  15. Vern on E permalink
    April 18, 2020 11:13 am

    We can rant and rave as much as we like but the fact is that we are losing. Every day more and more control is being taken by the eco-loons and their fellow travellers. Suck it up.

    • April 19, 2020 12:39 pm

      Please don’t suck it up. ‘Snot inevitable. FIGHT the b***ards !

  16. NeverReady permalink
    April 18, 2020 1:58 pm

    Hahahaha…so, what the Indy is saying that although the 70m population of the UK can cut carbon use to zero (yeah, right!), it won’t make any difference because the other 7.4 billion people in the world couldn’t really GAF.

  17. Stephen Lord permalink
    April 18, 2020 6:24 pm

    Its a total hoax. Time to stop al l the carbon footprint nonsense.

  18. jack broughton permalink
    April 20, 2020 6:39 pm

    The enviro-babble-mad “i” today has a graphic regarding the imported carbon footprint being 46% of our total carbon footprint, which actually included overseas residents and overseas territories as UK emissions.

    They also have another article about the massive stresses being put on children by the approaching virtual Armageddon.

    I think that the nutters-who-control the press are now aiming to put carbon taxes on imports once they have stopped all exports by the same taxes!

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: