Monday, 2 May 2011

Carbon in internationally Traded Goods

The PNAS has published a paper recently on carbon emission transfers through international trade (1).  It is no surprise that it finds an increase in carbon emissions due to goods and services consumed in the developed world (in this case Annex B countries under the Kyoto protocol) even though the carbon emissions produced geographically within the developed world have gone down (2% overall, 0.1% annual average). The period under consideration is 1990 to 2008 and there's been a recession or two in that time which we haven't recovered from. However, there were some other interesting facts buried in the tables.
Developing countries more than doubled their carbon emissions from 7.7 to 16.4 Gt CO2/year over the period, overtaking western production emissions at 13.9 Gt CO2/year in 2008. This is equivalent to annual growth of  almost 6%. However, only 17% of this growth was due to exports to us. This was much lower than some of my friends expected and it shows how much countries like China and India are developing their internal markets. In fact the proportion of developing world emissions due to exports to the west has increased only from 14% to 16%.

Developing nations are now trading almost as much with each other as with the western world. The carbon in traded goods exported to the west was 2.6 Gt CO2 in 2008 compared with 2.2  Gt CO2 traded with each other. The developing to developing trade was 28% of all the carbon traded in 2008, compared with less than 10% in 1990.

Also, the carbon emissions in traded goods was only 26% of the global carbon emissions total, up from 20%. I found this a surprise, as in our heavily globalised economy I thought trade would be more significant.

(1) Growth in emission transfers via international trade from 1990 to 2008 Glen P. Peters, Jan C. Minx, Christopher L. Weberd, and Ottmar Edenhofer

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