Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Human Geography Lecturer Dr. Laurie Parsons admitting UK companies are outsourcing emissions overseas to evade strict UK carbon targets.
Carbon colonialism must be challenged if we want to make climate progress
Laurie Parsons, Royal Holloway University of London
December 21, 2021 1.20pm GMT
Assessments of the UN climate conference COP26’s success have been mixed, but none have been entirely positive. Achieving the Paris agreement’s target of limiting global warming to 1.5℃ above pre-industrial levels is a goal described by UN secretary general António Guterres as “on life support”, whilst reports in the wake of the conference suggested that the world is on track for “disastrous levels” of global warming.
The response in some quarters has been to call for tough new targets, yet as the chief executive of the UK’s Climate Change Committee noted, this is likely to simply “widen the gap between ambition and delivery”.
But these targets will never be able to properly challenge the climate crisis without first tackling the implicit “carbon colonialism” that underpins the UK’s approach to climate change. Here, carbon is measured according to a two-tier system: rigorously within UK borders and far less carefully outside them.
This approach to the country’s carbon footprint makes little sense in the face of the worldwide problem of climate change. Around 22% of global carbon emissions are caused by producing goods, like clothes and electronics, that are actually consumed in a different country. The UK is a notable consumer – in fact, the third highest globally – of “imported emissions” like these. Nevertheless, climate targets set by the UK government focus on reducing emissions from within the country.
Currently, UK laws regulating emissions only apply to domestically produced products, whilst imported products are subject to voluntary standards – meaning the companies that make them don’t have to accurately report their emissions. This encourages “outsourcing” of emissions overseas. The dirtiest and most carbon intensive industries, such as fast fashion and construction, are transplanted to developing countries like India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Cambodia.
People who live in well regulated rich countries rarely appreciate how corrupt and malleable some places are. A particularly corrupt Caribbean nation I once visited, if you had a problem with your hotel bill, you gave the local police $20, and they would pressure the proprietor. I didn’t do this, but I watched someone who did – I thought he had been arrested, but he explained afterwards.
From what friends have said, countries where you can buy the local police and government officials far outnumber countries where officials take laws and regulations seriously. And its not necessarily because the people involved want to be corrupt; in places where the lowest tiers of state employees are paid a pittance which barely covers their food, let alone other living expenses, corruption is a matter of survival.
So companies wielding millions of dollars have no problem obtaining whatever fake paperwork they want – and a big tipoff and delaying tactics if any international inspectors show up.
Dr. Laurie Parsons believes that stricter enforcement will address the problem, but is such enforcement really possible? Global supply chains are riddled with far more serious problems than climate change, like Chinese slave labour. Vigorous enforcement efforts have to date failed to have any serious impact on this foul practice.
So I think it is fair to say, strict climate targets do nothing to reduce supply chain CO2 emissions, and no future enforcement is likely to change this situation. All climate targets do is give a competitive advantage to the corrupt, and drive manufacturing jobs away from countries which genuinely attempt to enforce the rules.
via Watts Up With That?
December 22, 2021 at 04:26AM