Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Constraining world trade is unlikely to help the climate

24.09.2012
From rubber dinghies to television sets: the emissions of greenhouse gases in countries like China are to a significant extent caused by the production of goods that are exported to Germany or the United States.
But this doesn´t necessarily mean that Western countries have relocated their emission-intensive industries and hence escape regulation for climate protection. This is shown in a study appearing in Nature Climate Change this week.

Instead, researchers were able to pin down a number of factors explaining the pronounced imbalances between emission importers and exporters, the US current account deficit being one of them. Their conclusion: interventions in world trade, like CO2 tariffs, would probably have only a small impact on global emissions.

Steadily growing world trade leads – as earlier research has shown – to a substantial transfer of CO2 from one country to another. The traded goods effectively contain the greenhouse gas, as it originates from the energy used during their production. “Typically, in the West we import goods whose production causes a lot of greenhouse gas emissions in poorer countries – and it is a contested question to which countries these emissions should be attributed,” explains Michael Jakob from the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK), one of the authors. This is a delicate issue, because many Western countries have ambitious targets for emissions reductions. Simply transferring emission-intensive industries to third countries in order to achieve these goals would not serve climate protection – and might even damage the economy.

Almost half of the CO2 transfers into the US are caused by the American trade deficit

“For the first time, we have now broken down the known emission transfers into their components,” Jakob says. The economic analysis is based on an evaluation of estimates that were determined by other researchers in earlier studies. “We can show that of the CO2 flowing into the US in form of imported goods, almost 50 per cent are due to the American trade deficit alone,” Jakob explains. The US emits less CO2 in the production of its exports than is contained in its imports, simply because it imports more than it exports. “And only about 20 per cent of CO2 transfers from China into the US can be traced back to the fact that China is in effect relatively more specialized in the production of dirty goods,” Jakob says. But this is the only driver of emission transfers on which the currently controversially discussed climate tariffs could take effect.

Without world trade, the emission of greenhouse gases in countries like China could potentially be even higher than today, according to the study. Western countries often export goods like machines that need a lot of energy in the production process. Usually, this energy stems from comparatively clean production processes. On the other hand, China produces a lot of export goods like toys, whose production needs relatively little energy, but stems from emission-intensive coal power plants. If China with its fossil energy mix had to produce more energy-intensive goods itself instead of importing them, emissions would increase. “In the end, interventions in world trade could do more harm than good,” says co-author Robert Marschinski from PIK and Technische Universität Berlin.

"The crucial question is how clean or how dirty national energy production is in each case"

“Crucial for CO2 transfers is not only world trade, but also the question of how clean or dirty national energy production is in each case,” Marschinski emphasizes. To look only at CO2 transfers could be misleading. If for instance the European Union were to adopt new low emission production methods, its net imports of CO2 could increase even though there is no relocation of production.

“To really justify trade-policy interventions like the much discussed CO2 tariffs, further analysis would be needed – the observed CO2 transfers alone are not enough as a basis,” Marschinski explains. “Such measures cannot replace what it really takes: more international cooperation.” Binding global climate targets could give incentives for investors to promote low-emission technologies. Innovations in efficiency could get financial support, and regional emission trading systems could be linked with each other, Marschinski says. “All this could help to achieve climate protection targets in an economically reasonable way.”

Article: Jakob, M., Marschinski, R. (2012): Interpreting trade-related CO2 emission transfers. Nature Climate Change [DOI: 10.1038/nclimate1630] (Advance Online Publication)

Weblink to the article when it is published on September 23rd: http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1630

For further information please contact:
PIK press office
Phone: +49 331 288 25 07
E-Mail: press@pik-potsdam.de

Mareike Schodder | PIK
Further information:
http://www.pik-potsdam.de

More articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation:

nachricht Upcycling 'fast fashion' to reduce waste and pollution
03.04.2017 | American Chemical Society

nachricht Litter is present throughout the world’s oceans: 1,220 species affected
27.03.2017 | Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung

All articles from Ecology, The Environment and Conservation >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

The TU Ilmenau develops tomorrow’s chip technology today

27.04.2017 | Information Technology

Scientist invents way to trigger artificial photosynthesis to clean air

26.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Ammonium nitrogen input increases the synthesis of anticarcinogenic compounds in broccoli

26.04.2017 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>