UK greenhouse gas emissions drop by 8.7 per cent

UK greenhouse gas emissions hit by recession

The UK’s greenhouse gas emissions dropped by 8.7 per cent in 2009 due to the recession impacting energy consumption, figures released by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) show.

The fall in emissions in 2009, the last year that data is available, was due to a significant drop in energy consumption by businesses, industry and homes as the recession bit, DECC said.

Carbon dioxide, the most common greenhouse gas, dropped by almost a 10th (9.8 per cent) as the impacts of the recession hit electricity and fuel use across the economy.

Greenhouse gas emissions fell across all areas, with an 11 per cent reduction in the energy supply sector, an 11.8 per cent fall among businesses, a 36.5 per cent reduction in emissions from industrial processes, 4.2 per cent from transport and 5.8 per cent from homes.

The falls were far higher than the previous year, when both CO2 and greenhouse gases as a whole dropped by around 2 per cent - but emissions from households rose by 3 per cent.

An increase in the use of nuclear power, instead of coal and natural gas, for electricity generation also led to a reduction in emissions.

The UK's total emissions of the “basket” of six greenhouse gases covered by the international treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, were estimated to be 566.3 million tonnes in 2009 -  8.7 per cent lower than the 2008 figure of 620.5 million tonnes.  

Emissions from homes, which include use of fossil fuels such as gas for heating and cooking but not emissions from electricity which are counted at the point they are generated at power stations, saw a fall of almost 6 per cent.

In transport, the biggest reduction in emissions was for heavy goods vehicles.

Overall, the greenhouse gases for the UK, its crown dependencies and overseas territories have fallen by more than a quarter (25.6 per cent) on 1990 levels, double the level required to meet the country's commitment to cut emissions under the Kyoto Protocol.

Emissions for the UK alone fell by 26.5 per cent, which means the nation is ahead of the 23 per cent cut needed by 2012 to meet the first legally binding “carbon budget”, as part of efforts to slash emissions by 80 per cent by 2050.

The two figures include trading of allowances bought to cover greenhouse gases emitted by power plants and heavy industry under the EU carbon trading scheme, but for the first time the UK was a net seller of such credits.

As a result the actual reduction in emissions since 1990 was slightly higher.

Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne said: “Yes, emissions were down in 2009 but so was the economy so this is no time for back-slapping.

“A low carbon approach has to be a vital part of kick starting and future proofing our economy, getting us off the oil hook and on to long term green growth.”

Friends of the Earth said despite the fall in greenhouse gases, the economy remained heavily addicted to fossil fuels, and early estimates for 2010 suggested emissions were likely to have grown again last year.

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