Recession drives down UK greenhouse gas emissions

Official figures published yesterday revealed that UK greenhouse gas emissions dropped by 8.7% in 2009. Carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, accounted for about 84% of total UK greenhouse gas […]

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By Kelvin Ross

Official figures published yesterday revealed that UK greenhouse gas emissions dropped by 8.7% in 2009.

Carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, accounted for about 84% of total UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2009.

In 2009, UK net emissions of carbon dioxide were estimated to be 473.7 million tonnes, around 9.8% lower than the 2008 figure of 525.1 million tonnes. There were decreases in emissions of 11.5% from the energy supply sector, 13.1% from the business sector, 4.2% from the transport sector and 5.9% from the residential sector.

The government said yesterday that the overall decrease in emissions has primarily resulted from two factors: a significant fall in energy consumption across all sectors, and an increase in the use of nuclear power rather than coal and natural gas for electricity generation.

As the recession started to bite and the UK economy contracted during 2009, this resulted in an overall reduction in demand for electricity, together with lower fossil fuel consumption by businesses and households.

Today, Friends of the Earth’s head of climate Mike Childs said: “The recession may have led to a fall in UK greenhouse gases in 2009, but our economy remains heavily addicted to fossil fuels – and early estimates suggest that emissions grew again last year.

“The government must take urgent steps to wean the country off coal, gas and oil by investing in green energy and slashing energy waste – the Energy Bill, currently before Parliament, is a golden opportunity for action.”

Mr Childs added: “The Bill must include new legislation to stop our homes leaking heat, boost renewable energy and require local councils to play their part in tackling climate change. We must build a clean, low-carbon economy out of the rubble of the old to create a safe and prosperous future for us all.”

Energy 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 onto long term green growth. That’s why we’re wasting no time in reforming the electricity market, setting up the Green Investment Bank, and legislating for the Green Deal.”