The British Ceramic Confederation’s (BCC) fears that the UK will decarbonise through deindustrialisation have been further compounded by two sets of emissions figures, which suggest a reduction in carbon emissions at home is being achieved by manufacturing going overseas.
The BCC, which represents the interests of the ceramics industry, says new data published by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and Defra confirms its fears that uncompetitive energy and carbon costs are squeezing industry, impacting on jobs.
BEIS has published more detailed information around its territorial greenhouse gas (GHG) statistics for 1990 to 2020, first published in February this year, which show emissions within the UK were 49.7% lower than in 1990. The new data shows emissions from manufacturing dropped 61.3 per cent over this timeframe, while emissions from glass, ceramics and abrasives fell by 59.9 per cent.
BCC Technical Director Dr Andrew McDermott said: “The additional data shows that industry is decarbonising at a faster rate than the UK economy as a whole. Whilst some of this fall in emissions reflects the hard work of UK industry to decarbonise its activities, some of the apparent gains will be attributable to the offshoring of manufacturing and emissions, effectively decarbonisation by deindustrialisation.”
Territorial emissions data examines emissions occurring within the UK’s borders, compared with consumption emission statistics which refer to emissions associated with the consumption spending of UK residents, and include emissions associated with imported goods and services. Figures reveal UK consumption emissions have only dropped by ~23% (in 2019) since 1990. This is notably lower than the ~ 50% fall in territorial emissions. The data also reveals that whilst GHG emissions from UK produced goods have consistently fallen, emissions from imports have barely changed, with the main growth in imported emissions coming from the EU and China.
Andrew added: “Territorial data suggests we are halfway to achieving our carbon emissions targets, but when you consider consumption emissions, which factor in UK consumers swapping UK-made goods for imports, the figure appears to be closer to 25 per cent.”
BCC Chief Executive Rob Flello said: “The sector is committed to decarbonising in line with the UK’s ambition for net zero by 2050, and the figures confirm that UK ceramics is playing its part. But the cost of carbon emissions in the UK is notably higher than elsewhere in the world, which is placing our manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage. In some cases, investment, economic activity, and jobs have already relocated abroad, leading to a notable increase in imports.
“How many more jobs will successive governments sacrifice by implementing the most draconian measures, while offshore competitors put another piece of coal on the fire? We need support, so UK industry can make this low-carbon transition, rather than achieving net zero simply by sending manufacturing overseas.”
The BCC has already raised concerns that the Government’s consultation on changes to the UK Emissions Trading Scheme (UK ETS) could have a devastating impact on the ceramics sector.
Andrew added: “Our industry is already doing more than other parts of the economy to cut emissions, so why is the axe falling on us again, as companies within the UK ETS are already doing more than most? It is vital we complete the net zero journey, while remaining a vibrant and internationally competitive industry.”
Ceramics is a diverse sector and comprises manufacturers of heavy clay construction products, such as bricks, blocks, roof tiles and drainage pipes, whitewares, including tableware, giftware, sanitaryware, and wall tiles, refractories, advanced ceramics, for numerous electronic, medical, aerospace, environmental, military, and structural applications, as well as raw material and equipment suppliers to the sector.