We import a whole array of consumer products from the booming economies of India and China. In return, we have successfully exported our manufacturing emissions so distorting the real impact of our economy
The leaders of the big industrial nations are agreed. By 2050 emissions of carbon dioxide must be 50% lower than in 2050, promise the G8 leaders meeting this summer in Japan.
To achieve this, each of us in the developed world – government, corporation, private individual – must shrink our carbon footprint. It is obvious what that means for the last two sectors. You and I, together with the entities we work for, must reduce our consumption of energy and carbon intensive goods and activities. That much we understand. And can measure.
But what about nation states? How do they measure progress towards this agreed goal? The answer is: in a rather different way. So far as any government is concerned, the simplest way to calculate is to look at the nation’s GDP. And then divide it by the amount of carbon based fuel used, and other emissions, to realise this wealth.
Not only is this the simplest way of monitoring progress towards a low carbon future, it is also the conventionally accepted way in which the international league tables on progress are drawn up.