Cargo ship

Exploring the UK's Carbon Footprint

The Sustainability Research Institute at the University of Leeds has developed a model to reallocate the emissions from industries to the final consumer of products. This calculates the UK’s consumption based emissions account which is often called the UK’s Carbon Footprint. Here we present some of the results of this work.

Consumption-based inventories can be thought of as consumption equals emissions from the UK’s industries minus those emissions that are associated with exported goods plus emissions associated with imported goods. Consumption-based emissions do not have to be reported officially by any country, but in the UK these figures are reported by Defra.

This model is important as it challenges the conventional reporting of carbon emissions. The UK is committed to reducing carbon emission by 80% by 2050 but these emissions can be measured in different ways. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) requires the UK to submit annual emission inventories. We call these “territorial-based emission inventories”. This method of reporting is limited since it accounts for emissions within the UK but excludes emissions emitted in international territory, international aviation and shipping which are only reported as a memo and not allocated to individual countries. Similarly, in official reporting to Eurostat, emissions are allocated in a manner consistent to economic activities such as the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Here, international aviation and shipping are typically allocated to countries based on the operator of the vessel. We call these “production-based emission inventories”.

This model paints a more complete picture of the UK’s carbon emissions on a global scale as it reallocates emissions from industries to the final consumers of products, and therefore takes into account the UK’s responsibility for both territorial and international emissions.

Read our Climate Policy paper on Consumption-based accounting in the UK

Read our policy brief

Find out about how this data was used by the Committee on Climate Change in the report ‘Reducing the UK’s carbon footprint and managing competitiveness risks’

For more information contact John Barrett on 07791 884075

Website by Simon Arm-Riding