Emissions of greenhouse gases in many European countries are declining, and the European Union believes to be on track in achieving emission reductions as agreed upon in the Kyoto Protocol and the EU’s more ambitious climate policy. This could be interpreted as progress reflecting the dematerialization of the economy in industrialized countries. However, a number of recent publications based on input-output analysis indicate that emission reductions may also have been achieved because production has been shifted to other countries, and in particular China. These studies come to the conclusion that if a consumption perspective is applied, emissions in industrialized countries may be substantially higher. In these studies, emissions from transport are however missing. All trade is based on transport, mostly by cargo ship or aircraft. Both of these are not accounted for in the Kyoto Protocol as yet, and national greenhouse gas inventories do not consider these emissions either (with the exception of domestic aviation).
Consequently, this study examines the role of trade and transports in creating greenhouse gas emissions, based on the example of China’s imports and exports. Results are discussed with regard to their implications for global emission reductions and the structure of the Kyoto Protocol.