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Greta Thunberg accuses UK of lying about being a ‘climate leader’

Greta Thunberg accuses UK of lying about being a ‘climate leader’
Britain uses ‘creative carbon accounting’, climate activist says

Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg has accused the UK of using “creative carbon accounting” to present a false picture of its climate credentials.

Ms Thunberg’s remarks follow an announcement by Boris Johnson the UK has “managed to reduce its CO2 emissions by about 42 per cent on 1990 levels” at the Leaders’ Climate Summit in April.

The 18-year-old environmentalist, who spearheaded the global movement of school strikes for climate, challenged the claim, branding it “a lie” and disputing the veracity of labelling the UK a “climate leader”.

She accused the UK of cherry-picking its data to appear to have reduced CO2 emissions more than it actually has, saying: “Of course, if you don’t include all emissions, the statistics are going to look much nicer.”

Ms Thunberg said that the figure would not “look that good” if a number of excluded aspects had been factored in, listing “aviation, shipping, outsourcing, the imports of consumption… and the burning of biomass”.

Greenhouse gas emissions produced by international aviation, as well as shipping are not factored in to this figure, according to a review by fact-checking organisation Full Fact – and neither are emissions produced by any international goods and services that are consumed in the UK.

Meanwhile, a report by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in 2019: “The impact of globalisation on CO2 emissions has resulted in service-based economies creating indirect emissions by outsourcing manufacturing products to countries with lower labour costs and less stringent pollution regulations.”

The activist said that she is “really hoping” that people will “stop referring to the UK as a climate leader”, saying that “if you look at the reality, [it] is simply not true”.

“They are very good at creative carbon accounting, I must give them that – but that doesn’t mean much in practice,” Ms Thunberg said.

While the ONS report found that the UK’s “apparent decline in territorial CO2 emissions is overestimated”, the body recognised that it has “made genuine efforts in cutting down both its territorial and consumption-based emissions” in recent years.

Earlier this month, Mr Johnson’s climate change spokesperson Allegra Stratton said that the government’s 2050 target date of reducing the UK’s net carbon emissions to zero is “too far away”.

“We have to be changing our carbon emissions output right now, so that we can stop temperature increase by 2030,” Ms Stratton said, as she acknowledged that progress had been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

A government spokesperson said: “We are proud of the strides we are already making in tackling climate change, cutting emissions by 44 per cent over three decades.

“This figure was published as part of our thoroughly transparent annual reporting, and was measured in line with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change standards for reporting emissions.

“We stand by our assertion that we are a world leader in the fight against climate change, and are absolutely committed to meeting our future climate commitments. We were the first major economy to legislate to end our contribution to climate change by 2050, and our Net Zero Strategy – to be published shortly – will set out our plans to do even more.”