The bigger picture: addressing the UK’s hidden carbon footprint

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29 June, 2022


The UK has been able to claim success and global leadership on climate action, halving greenhouse gas emissions generated from domestic economic activity (territorial emissions) since 1990, while the economy has grown.

But, this is not the whole story. Consumption emissions, associated with the goods and services we all use, are 50 per cent higher than territorial emissions and have fallen much less dramatically.

Much of this difference is in the overseas emissions associated with the production of imports. This significant source of climate impact is currently ignored by decarbonisation commitments and policy.

There has long been a moral argument for making sure the UK does not offshore carbon emissions. This report highlights that now is the time to consider more ambitious action on consumption emissions, ensuring supply chains are more resilient to climate risks and using the country’s trading power to speed up climate action across the world.

It sets out steps the UK can take to begin to address its broader and hidden climate impact, including setting a clear target to cut consumption emissions, assessing new trade deals for climate impact and expanding ecodesign rules for new products.


Caterina Brandmayr
Libby Peake
Zoe Avison



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