Energy minister Greg Barker and Defra officials were today grilled by the energy select committee on the way the UK reports its carbon emissions.
Parliament’s energy watchdog asked whether the current internationally agreed way of measuring emissions, based on territory rather than by energy use, was making the UK “complacent” about cutting carbon.
Giving evidence to the committee, Mr Barker said using consumption-based figures were “interesting, illuminating but potentially a huge distraction. Pursuing [them on a global level] could have perverse consequences which would undermine the integrity of the current international regime.”
But figures revealed to the committee by Defra official John Taylor suggested reporting emissions based on the physical area of a country masked their true impact.
He said: “Total consumption-based emissions in 2008 [in the UK] were over 1000million tonnes of CO2 while territorial emissions amounted to 620million tonnes. Consumption emissions therefore added an extra 75% impact to the territorial emissions level.
“Whilst territorial emissions have fallen 20% since 1990, consumption based emissions have risen by the same level.”
Despite this, Mr Taylor said Defra broadly agreed with DECC because territorial figures were more “secure”, suggesting we could not be so “confident” with data collected otherwise.
However, chair of the committee Tim Yeo MP raised the “worries” other countries might have, that western nations have exported emissions out of their territory. He said it was worth considering a “more equitable approach” to emissions reporting.
Mr Yeo said: “What we do feel is that there are a number of dangers in relying exclusively on territorial measurements… there may be a complacency in countries like the UK about our achievements which look quite impressive on [one] measurement but look rather unimpressive on the other.”