UK Minister: Switch to ‘fairer’ emissions reporting could derail UN process

By John Parnell

Greg Barker source DECC

UK Climate Change Minister Greg Barker said there was no pressure to change the current method of emissions reporting (Source: DECC)

A switch to consumption-based emissions reporting could jeopardise the UN climate negotiations, according to UK Climate Change Minister Greg Barker.

Giving evidence to a Select Committee hearing yesterday, Barker said that the future was with territorial reporting, based on the location of emissions, rather than consumption based methods which incorporate the carbon used to create a nation’s imports.

This system is judged to be fairer as it allocates emissions to the developed economies that consume goods, rather than penalising less developed countries that manufacture them.

“It would be nigh on impossible to negotiate an emissions reduction treaty on the basis of consumption based emissions,” said Barker. “An attempt to do that could delay an effective solution on climate change for years or even decades.”

The UN climate change agency, the EU and the Kyoto Protocol all use territorial based emissions as the basis of their carbon accounting.

“It would also be impossible to get base international reporting on embedded emissions figures because they are so hard to calculate accurately and verify. It would certainly be impossible to agree a method internationally.”

Barker added that: “There is no meaningful pressure from other countries for any change.”

UK emissions ‘rose’

The difference in the results of the two methods was highlighted by the Committee’s chair Tim Yeo MP.

He pointed out that under territorial reporting Britain had cuts its emissions by 28% between 1990 and 2009. The consumption based data however, showed an increase of 20% between 1990 and 2008.

Barker said that consumption based accounting provided “useful information” but reiterated that it should not form the basis for international negotiations.

“Greg Barker is right to say that the UN climate framework should continue to be based on the well-established Kyoto accounting framework, and that trying to shift to consumption based reporting would be a distraction,” said Keith Allot, head of climate change policy at WWF.

“However, he is in danger of throwing out the baby with the bathwater – consumption-based reporting can be used alongside the existing production-based approach to improve national policy making and to guard against perverse consequences.”

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