Leaving the European Union in the divorce known as Brexit could cause the United Kingdom to import more goods from elsewhere in the world — substantially raising its carbon emissions.
Goods produced and sold within a local market have a lower carbon footprint than those produced and imported from farther away. Luís Costa of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research in Germany and Vincent Moreau of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne calculated trade flows between the United Kingdom and the rest of Europe, both before and after the proposed Brexit. They estimated that the United Kingdom would replace some of its European-produced imports with those from farther away.
In a post-Brexit world, the United Kingdom would see a 38% rise in emissions related to producing and consuming goods, compared with 2014 levels. The increase is roughly equal to total emissions from the Netherlands in 2017.
Some of the goods that would have the biggest impact on emissions include food and components for the aerospace and automobile industries, the authors say.