Trade and Global Warming

Carbon dioxide emissions associated with imports are a significant and growing portion of Oregon’s true carbon footprint. These emissions must be reduced in order to fully protect public health and the environment from the threats posed by global warming. If neglected, these emissions are likely to grow and could negate many of the hard-won carbon reductions achieved in other areas.

Likewise, the failure to internalize the cost of imports’ embedded carbon emissions creates an unfair competitive advantage over similar products made within Oregon, increasing the likelihood that domestic manufacturing will move offshore or to other states.
This foreseeable shift in manufacturing is likely to have negative economic impacts domestically, while increasing overall pollution levels globally.

The Oregon Fair Trade Campaign is interested in finding ways to address the embedded emissions within imports in order to protect the environment, the economy and human rights.


David Allaway, a waste reduction specialist in Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality, spoke about the “Embedded Emissions of Products” during an Oregon Fair Trade Campaign panel on “Trade and Global Warming” during the 2009 Public Interest Environmental Law Conference.

Sierra Club’s Trade and Climate Change Page
“[A]s we embark on the path towards a green energy economy and the price of energy increases in the U.S., carbon intensive industry will again be tempted to relocate to countries with less stringent climate protection measures. However, such relocation from the U.S. to countries abroad would result in not only increased emissions globally (just polluting in different places), but also more job losses in the U.S.” 

“Trading Kyoto,”
March 20, 2008.
“Almost one-quarter of carbon dioxide released to the atmosphere is emitted in the production of internationally traded goods and services. Trade therefore represents an unrivalled, and unused, tool for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.”

“Climate Change? Blame Your Stuff,”
The Oregonian. August 1, 2008.
“Researchers say the national greenhouse gas count could jump by as much as 30 percent if the energy used to make rising U.S. imports — typically from countries such as China, where less efficient industries use dirtier energy sources — was taken into account.”

“Emissions Embodied in U.S. International Trade: 1997 – 2004,”
Environmental Science & Technology. 2007.
“[T]he overall embodied CO2 in US imports has grown from between 0.5-0.8 Gt CO2 in 1997 to between 0.8-1.8 Gt CO2 in 2004… Shifting to less CO2-intensive energy in the U.S. could be negated by increased trade with CO2-intensive countries.”