The UK government has been accused by some of its own MPs of putting out misleading figures on cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Members of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee claim that the country’s record of cutting CO2 is not as good as figures from the Department of Energy and Climate Change suggest.

DECC’s official CO2 figures – that count territorial emissions from power stations within UK borders – show a reduction of nearly 20 per cent between 1990-2009. But research commissioned by the Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) reveals that emissions were 20 per cent higher in 2009 if consumption based emissions from imported goods are included.

DEFRA says that the fall in territorial emissions was not mainly the consequence of the government’s climate policy but instead was the result of a shift in manufacturing industries away from the UK and the switch from coal to gas fired electricity generation that began in the early 1990s. Since 1990, carbon dioxide emissions from imports have almost doubled.

Tim Yeo, chairman of the energy select committee, said: “Successive governments have claimed to be cutting climate-changing emissions, but in fact a lot of pollution has simply been outsourced overseas. DECC likes to argue that the UK is only responsible for 2 per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions, but the government’s own research shows this not to be the case. The UK can scarcely lecture countries like China for failing to sign up to binding emissions cuts when much of their pollution is produced making products for us and other high-consumption economies.”

And he warned that “without a complete picture of the UK’s impact on the global climate, DECC runs the risk of designing energy and climate change policies that produce perverse unintended consequences”.

He wants the government to commission the Committee on Climate Change – which was set up to advise the government on its carbon budgets – to examine how the UK could incorporate consumption emissions accounting into its climate change policy.

DECC claims that it would be too difficult to count consumption-based emissions.

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