Two climate change academics spoke on Tuesday 29 November to a group of MPs at the House of Commons. Dr Alice Bows of Manchester University’s Sustainable Consumption Institute (1) and Leeds-based Dr John Barrett presented their work on “embedded carbon” (from the energy used to produce goods that are imported) to the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee.
Dr Bows explained to MCFly the nature of their argument; “We told them that using just one indicator as a measure of what mitigation approaches should be taken to tackle climate change, is inadequate.” Dr Bows added that while the current “production-based” or “territorial” approaches to setting targets should not be abandoned, “the consumption-based accounting approach offers further insights into the drivers of emission growth, and highlights new levers that could be pulled to tackle rising emissions.”
Continuing in the vein of speaking truth to power, the academics told the politicians that “if emissions are included from international aviation, shipping and the emissions associated with imported goods for UK consumption” then the UK’s total emissions have been going up markedly, rather than declining.
The politicians pressed – as their job entails – on “how policies could actually work in relation to consumption”, especially on how border tariff adjustments could work, and how they might violate World Trade Organisation rules.
MCFly intends to conduct further in depth interviews with Dr Bows on the implications of “consumption-based accounting” at some point in the new year.
Dr Bows also informed us that the Sustainable Consumption Institute’s consumption-based scenarios were recently the focus of a project workshop to describe ‘backcasts’ to possible 2050 food futures. Dr Bows stated that “the next stage in our project is to estimate the cumulative emissions associated with the 2050 scenarios, based on what our stakeholders said would be necessary to deliver the various ‘worlds’. These included one in which the UK is virtually self-sustaining, through the use of indoor growing environments to ward against the worst climate impacts, and another where livestock has been broadly abandoned in favour of laboratory grown meat!” (see the website for info)
(1) And yes, that’s the same SCI set up with a wodge of cash from Tesco.
UPDATE 5/12/2011. Ellie Dawkins, also funded by the SCI, but at the University of York’s Stockholm Environment Institute also gave evidence