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China’s manufacturing exports: carbon emissions and consumption

carbon emissions

Our current world is filled with uncertainty. The global arena has recently been shaken, all walks of life have been impacted, businesses have been driven to the ground and patterns of behaviour have changed. Or have they? By evaluating China’s carbon emissions since February, it seems that consumer habits remain potent. One constant has remained throughout the economic uncertainty of the pandemic: the world relies on China’s manufacturing industry. China produces the most amount of CO2 by burning fossil fuels, which makes it an important focal point of environmental concerns.

Creatures of habit?

So, it seems that despite all the social upheaval, humans still rely on consumer goods to keep us going. Where there is demand, there is an industry to fulfil market needs. And that could not be truer for China. A quarter of China’s gross domestic product (GDP) comes from its exports, so it thrives off the world’s need for products.Whilst China is one of the largest manufacturers for consumer goods, it is also an important producer in medical devices and is the largest producer and exporter of steel. Steel is used in building, infrastructure and vehicles, showing that consumption habits are not just to blame for the increasing concerns over the link between China’s manufacturing industry and carbon dioxide emissions.

So… who’s to blame?

Although the US-China trade war has been ongoing for some time, there is no denying China’s global leading reputation as a manufacturing powerhouse. In fact, countries all over the world benefit from China’s exports. By tracking China’s emissions and its exports being shipped overseas, a recent scientific study has claimed that this global network is damaging the environment. This shows that significant changes need to be made not only in production and the resources used to produce energy, but also in demand.

Where do we go from here?

How do you protect the manufacturing industry, jobs and fulfil demand whilst cutting emissions? I think it has much to do with the actual process in terms of burning fossil fuels. Whilst significant progress has been made in terms of new renewables, such as floating photovoltaic solar panels and onshore and offshore wind farms, there is something to be said about us always reverting to the use of non-renewable resources like coal. However, the wider supply chain is as important as the manufacturing process itself. A cleaner and efficient method to transport goods internationally needs to be found, showing that there is no ‘quick fix’.

By Emily Digby


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