Emissions of greenhouse gases, United Kingdom, Million tonnes (carbon equivalent)
UK emissions of a ‘basket’ of greenhouse gases fell by nearly 14 per cent between 1990 and 2003.
Several gases occur naturally in the atmosphere which keep the Earth at a temperature suitable for life by trapping energy from the Sun – the ‘greenhouse’ effect. Emissions from human activities are increasing the concentrations of several of these gases, causing global warming and climate change.
The UK has a legally binding target under the Kyoto protocol to reduce its emissions of the basket of six major greenhouse gases to 12.5 per cent below 1990 levels by 2008-12. By 2003, emissions were provisionally estimated to be about 14 per cent below 1990 levels, at 179 million tonnes (carbon equivalent).
Despite the overall downward trend, there were slight increases in greenhouse gas emissions between 2002 and 2003. The increase was largely due to greater use of coal in electricity generation and a decrease in net imports of electricity from the continent. This lead to increased emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas.
There is a UK domestic goal of a 20 per cent reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide by 2010. The UK has also announced its intention to put itself on a path towards a reduction in CO2 emissions of 60 per cent by about 2050. CO2 emissions fell by about 7 per cent between 1990 and 2003, to 153 million tonnes (carbon equivalent).
Emissions from power stations and other fuel processing industries can be re-allocated to the final users of delivered energy to give an ‘end user’ breakdown. Using this breakdown emissions from households totalled 42 million tonnes (carbon equivalent) in 2001. Emissions from industry were 58 million tonnes and emissions from transport were 42 million tonnes.
Emissions from both domestic and industry end users have been falling since 1970, by 23 and 40 per cent respectively between 1970 and 2001. Conversely, emissions from transport more than doubled over the same period.
The basket comprises the six main gases with a direct greenhouse effect: carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs) and sulphur hexafluoride (SF6)