NOT Zero by 2050 – UK’s ‘Creative’ Carbon Accounting Processes slammed as ‘farcical’ and ‘madness’ by leading researchers

Government targets to make the UK carbon neutral by 2050 could be worthless if current carbon accounting systems aren’t radically reformed, warns a leading academic.

New research reveals that the UK’s system for measuring carbon is failing to deliver an accurate picture of pollution and climate impact, risking bogus net-zero claims, missed opportunities and false positives when it comes to identifying truly effective ways of decarbonising the country.

Under the current international carbon accounting standards used to calculate carbon neutrality, emissions from supply chains, after-sale product use and waste aren’t included for businesses and nature-based solutions are often ignored altogether. As a result:

  • Supermarkets selling food from UK farms risk having HIGHER reported carbon emissions than those that import all their products from abroad.
  • Schemes that encourage staff to walk and cycle to work may ADD to a UK business’ reported carbon emissions.
  • An initiative to save peat bogs that will absorb and lock in carbon for millennia is deemed LESS carbon efficient than low-energy light bulbs.
  • Projects to recycle and reuse won’t register as carbon-saving AT ALL.

Greta Thunberg Criticises UK’s ‘Creative’ Carbon accounting

The UK’s commitments to net zero have already come under criticism from environment campaigner Greta Thunberg, who told the Youth4Climate Summit in Milan:

“Of course, the climate crisis .. more or less it started in the UK since that’s where the industrial revolution started, we started to burn coal there, so of course the UK has an enormous historical responsibility when it comes to historic emissions since the climate crisis is a cumulative crisis.”

Ms Thunberg told delegates that the UK, like many other countries, engages in what she called “creative carbon accounting”, where emissions from exported fossil fuels or international shipping and aviation are not currently counted.

Professor Ian Thomson: Some of UK’s Carbon Accounting Systems are Farcical

Professor Ian Thomson, who co-led the research and is an international expert on environmental accounting and expert reviewer for the next IPCC report, is Director of the Lloyds Banking Group Centre for Responsible Business at the University of Birmingham and says:

“Some of the carbon accounting systems and evaluation processes in the UK are farcical and inadequate, lagging well behind net zero thinking and creating a structural barrier to implementing effective solutions. Without robust, reliable and trusted carbon accounting evidence, it’s likely that the UK’s net-zero carbon transition will be inhibited by poorly-informed decisions based on inappropriate evidence.”

The research project is currently working on a programme of suggested reforms to carbon accounting protocols that are essential to ensuring any outcome from United Nations’ COP26 climate talks, taking place in Glasgow in November, are effectively implemented. He is also working with the Centre for Social and Environmental Accounting Research (CSEAR) on a global survey of accountants to discover how carbon literate they are and evaluate how much climate accounting is being taught worldwide. Ian is also the lead of the Green Economy which is a strand of the Forum for Global Challenges, organised by the University of Birmingham in May 2022.

His new book, Urgent Business: Five Myths Business Needs to Overcome to Save Itself and the Planet, will be published by Bristol University Press in February 2022.