One of the flawed arguments of the Bush Administration was that it could not act unilaterally on reducing CO2 emissions as it would put the American economy at a competitive disadvantage. It therefore could not act until China and India acted too.

As China is the fastest growing source of carbon dioxide, much of the international pressure was being focussed on it. However China argues that it is not responsible for its “offshored emissions” – those that are due to it manufacturing goods for export.

Just how large a proportion of China’s overall CO2 emissions these offshored emissions are has been widely disputed. But it may surprise many to find out just how much of China’s carbon emissions are actually the responsibility of the West.

A new report has found that half of the recent rise in China’s CO2 emissions is caused by the manufacturing of goods for other countries, which means that in total about a third of all Chinese CO2 emissions are the result of producing goods for export.

According to Glen Peters, one of the authors of the new report at Oslo’s Centre for International Climate and Environmental Research, about 9% of total Chinese emissions are the result of manufacturing goods for the US, and 6% are from producing goods for Europe.

The research, due to be published in the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters, underlines just how important “offshored emissions” could be in the run up to this year’s crucial Copenhagen summit.

More and more people are arguing that the responsibility for these emissions should lie with consumer countries, although working out any global deal that incorporated this would be hugely problematical.

But as the politicians and scientists squabble, the issue is worth thinking about the next time you pick up something that says: “Made in China”.