UK Government

Department of Energy and Climate Change: STATISTICAL RELEASE - UK climate change Sustainable development indicator: 2008 greenhouse gas emissions, final figures

Press Release   •   Feb 02, 2010 11:00 GMT

DECC today publishes final 2008 estimates of UK greenhouse gas emissions.

To see full statistical release and illustrations please go to the DECC website at:
http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/statistics/climate_change/gg_emissions/uk_emissions/2008_final/2008_final.aspx

Greenhouse gas emissions - headline results

- In 2008, UK emissions of the basket of six greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol were estimated to be 628.3 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e).  This was 1.9 per cent lower than the 2007 figure of 640.5 million tonnes. There were decreases in emissions of 2.9 per cent (6.5 MtCO2e) from the energy supply sector, 3.0 per cent (4.1 MtCO2e) from the transport sector, 2.6 per cent (2.6 MtCO2e) from the business sector, and 7.3 per cent (1.3 MtCO2e) from industrial processes. There was, however, an increase in emissions from the residential sector of 3.1 per cent (2.5 MtCO2e).

- Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main greenhouse gas, accounting for about 85 per cent of total UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2008.  In 2008, UK net emissions of carbon dioxide were estimated to be 532.8 million tonnes (Mt). This was around 2.0 per cent lower than the 2007 figure of 543.6 (Mt). There were decreases in emissions of 2.9 per cent (6.3 Mt) from the energy supply sector, 2.9 per cent (3.9 Mt) from the transport  sector, and 3.0 per cent (2.7 Mt) from the business sector. However, there was an increase of 3.2 per cent (2.5 Mt) in emissions from the residential sector.

- The overall decrease in emissions has primarily resulted from continued fuel switching from coal to natural gas for electricity generation, combined with lower fossil fuel consumption by industry and in the road transport sector.

- All the sectoral breakdowns included in this statistical release are based on the source of the emissions, as opposed to where the end-user activity occurred. Emissions related to electricity generation are therefore attributed to power stations, the source of these emissions, rather than homes and businesses where electricity is used.

The headline results are shown in Table 1 and Figure 1 below.  The complete time series since 1990 is shown in Table 10 towards the end of this statistical release.

Coverage of emissions reporting

The basket of greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol consists of six gases: carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride.  In accordance with international reporting and carbon trading protocols, each of these gases is weighted by its global warming potential (GWP), so that total greenhouse gas emissions can be reported on a consistent basis.  The GWP for each gas is defined as its warming influence relative to that of carbon dioxide. Greenhouse gas emissions are then presented in carbon dioxide equivalent units.

Carbon dioxide is reported in terms of net emissions, which means total emissions minus total removals of CO2 from the atmosphere by carbon sinks. Carbon sinks are incorporated within the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector, which covers afforestation, reforestation, deforestation and forest management.  They are defined by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) as “any process, activity or mechanism which removes a greenhouse gas, an aerosol or a precursor of a greenhouse gas from the atmosphere”.

Unless otherwise stated, any figures included in this release represent emissions within the UK and its Crown Dependencies (Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man).

Reporting of greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol is based on emissions in the UK, its Crown Dependencies, and those Overseas Territories (Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar and Montserrat) that are party to the UK ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.  The Kyoto Protocol also uses a narrower definition of carbon sinks than that applied for domestic UK CO2 reporting, which therefore results in a slightly different total.  These adjustments mean that the greenhouse gas basket reported for Kyoto differs slightly from the sum of the individual gases as shown.

Reporting of greenhouse gas emissions for the UK’s Carbon Budgets only includes emissions within the UK, and excludes both Crown Dependencies and Overseas Territories.

A more detailed summary of the coverage and breakdown can be found in the data tables which accompany this release, which can be accessed via the Climate Change Statistics pages of the DECC website.

Emissions by gas and source sector

Total greenhouse gases

In 2008, 35 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions were from the energy supply sector, 21 per cent from transport, 15 per cent from business and 13 per cent from residential fossil fuel use. Since 1990, emissions from road transport have increased by 6 per cent, while emissions from the energy supply industry have reduced by 20 per cent and business emissions have reduced by 14 per cent.

Carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide accounted for about 85 per cent of the UK’s man-made greenhouse gas emissions in 2008.

In 2008, 39 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions were from the energy supply sector, 22 per cent from road transport, 16 per cent from business and 15 per cent from residential fossil fuel use. Since 1990, emissions from road transport have increased by 7 per cent, while emissions from the energy supply industry have reduced by 14 per cent and business emissions have reduced by 21 per cent.

Since 2007, emissions from road transport have reduced by 4 per cent. Emissions from energy supply and business have both fallen by 3 per cent. However emissions from residential fossil fuel use have risen by 3 per cent.

Methane

Weighted by global warming potential, methane accounted for about 8 per cent of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions in 2008.

Methane emissions, excluding those from natural sources, were 53 per cent below 1990 levels. In 2008, the main sources of methane were landfill sites (41 per cent of the total) and agriculture (38 per cent).

Emissions from landfill have reduced by 59 per cent and emissions from agriculture by 18 per cent since 1990.

Nitrous oxide

Weighted by global warming potential, nitrous oxide emissions accounted for about 5 per cent of the UK's man-made greenhouse gas emissions in 2008.

Nitrous oxide emissions fell by 48 per cent between 1990 and 2008. The largest reductions were in emissions from adipic acid production between 1998 and 1999 which is reflected in the reduction in emissions from industrial processes between these years. This leaves agriculture as the main source, accounting for over three quarters of emissions, mainly from agricultural soils.

Table 5 and Figure 5 below show the breakdown of carbon dioxide emissions into the main source sectors.

Emissions from UK-based international aviation and shipping bunkers
*** This is a UK sustainable development strategy indicator ***

Emissions from international aviation and shipping can be estimated from refuelling from bunkers at UK airports and ports, whether by UK or non-UK operators.  Under the reporting guidelines agreed by the UNFCCC, these emissions are not included in the UK’s emissions total, but are reported as memo items in national greenhouse gas inventories. Parties to the UNFCCC are required to act to limit or reduce emissions from international services working through the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

In 2008, emissions from international aviation fuel use were estimated to be 34.4 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent.  This was 3.7 per cent lower than the 2007 figure of 35.8 million tonnes.  However, between 1990 and 2008 the level of these emissions has more than doubled. High altitude aviation also has a greenhouse effect over and above that of carbon dioxide alone, but this is not reflected in this indicator.

Between 2007 and 2008, CO2 emissions from domestic aviation also decreased, by 5.0 per cent. Between 1990 and 2008, emissions from this sector increased by 62.5 per cent.

The Government has recently set a new target for carbon dioxide emissions from UK aviation, which requires them to be no higher than 2005 levels in 2050. This target incorporates emissions from both domestic and international aviation.  In 2008, these emissions were 3.7 per cent below 2005 levels.

In 2008, emissions from UK shipping bunkers were estimated to be 7.5 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent.  This was 10.6 per cent higher than the 2007 figure of 6.8 million tonnes. Between 1990 and 1998 emissions from UK shipping bunkers increased by around a third, although these emissions have subsequently decreased by around 17 per cent from the 1998 level. However, UK operators purchase most of their fuel outside the UK.

Revisions to the Inventory

The UK Greenhouse Gas Inventory is reviewed every year, and the whole historical data series is revised to incorporate methodological improvements and new data.  This takes into account revisions to the datasets which have been used in its compilation, most notably the UK energy statistics published in the Digest of UK Energy Statistics (DUKES). It is therefore not appropriate to compare the Inventory from one year with that from another.  However, the latest Inventory represents a single consistent data series going back to 1990, and this therefore allows year-on-year comparisons to be made.

In preparing the 2008 Inventory, the most notable changes to the historical series since the 2007 Inventory was published have been linked to changes in the emissions factors used to estimate emissions attributable to specific activities. For the carbon dioxide series, the most significant changes have resulted from new fuel consumption factors for detailed vehicle types. For methane, there have been changes due to the introduction of new DfT/TRL emissions factors. Revisions to some of the emissions factors in the agriculture sector have also affected the methane and nitrous oxide series.  For F-gases, there have been revisions to the refrigeration model for HFCs and PFCs to incorporate new data for the amount of various refrigerant types being sold into the sector.

All the revisions to the inventory have resulted in revisions to the 2007 figures. The total of all UK greenhouse gas emissions reported for the Kyoto Protocol has been revised upwards from 636.6 to 640.5 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent. The figure for UK CO2 emissions has also been revised upwards, from 542.6 to 543.6 million tonnes.  Comparing the 2008 figures with the 2007 figures published a year ago will therefore give a different year-on-year percentage change, but one which is incorrect and should not be used.

Revisions from previous estimates

Provisional estimates of 2008 UK greenhouse gas and carbon dioxide emissions were published in March 2009, based on early estimates of energy consumption for the year.

At that time, it was provisionally estimated that total UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2008 would be 623.8 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, which represented a decrease of 2 per cent from the 2007 figure. The final 2008 figure of 628.3 million tonnes is around ½ per cent higher than the provisional estimate, although this still represents a decrease from 2007 to 2008 of around 2 per cent, due to changes in the historical data series.

It was also provisionally estimated that net UK carbon dioxide emissions would be 531.8 million tonnes, representing a decrease of 2 per cent from the 2007 figure.  The final 2008 figure of 532.8 million tonnes is fairly close to the provisional estimate, and does indeed represent a decrease from 2007 to 2008 of around 2 per cent.

These differences arise from a combination of the range of uncertainty inherent in the provisional estimates (of the order of +/-1%), and revisions to energy statistics on which these estimates were based.

UK emissions reduction targets

The UK has a number of targets, both international and domestic, for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

These can be summarised as follows:

Kyoto Protocol target The Kyoto Protocol uses a base year which is comprised of 1990 for carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, and 1995 for fluorinated compounds.  To meet its commitment under the Protocol, the UK has agreed a legally binding target to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 12.5 per cent below the base year level over the period 2008-2012.

In July 2007, on completion of the review of the UK Inventory, the UK’s Kyoto base year figure was set at 779.9 million tonnes CO2 equivalent, based on the 2006 UK Inventory submission.  This means that to meet the UK’s Kyoto commitment, greenhouse gas emissions must be below 682.4 million tonnes CO2 equivalent on average per year over the first five year commitment period of the Protocol (2008-2012).

In accordance with this average yearly target, the Kyoto Protocol target for the UK was then set at 3,412 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent over the full five year period - this is now the UK’s Assigned Amount.

For more details of the UK’s Kyoto commitment, see the UK Initial Report under the Kyoto Protocol.

UK Climate Change Act This Act includes legally binding targets for the UK to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050, and by at least 34 per cent by 2020, both below base year levels. It also establishes a system of binding five-year carbon budgets to set the trajectory towards these targets.

Like the Kyoto Protocol, the Act uses a base year which is comprised of 1990 for carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide, and 1995 for fluorinated compounds.  However, this base year figure differs from that used for reporting against the Kyoto Protocol in that it was derived from the 2007 greenhouse gas inventory, which incorporated a number of revisions made subsequent to the UK’s Kyoto Protocol assigned amount having been fixed.

The Government set the first three carbon budgets in May 2009, covering the periods 2008-12, 2013-17 and 2018-2022.  The first of these budgets requires that total UK greenhouse gas emissions do not exceed 3018 million tonnes CO2 equivalent over the five-year period 2008-12, which is about 22 per cent below the base year level on average over the  period.

Domestic CO2 goal The UK has a domestic goal of reducing emissions of carbon dioxide to 20 per cent below 1990 levels by 2010.

Emissions Trading

Emissions trading results, including those from the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), are not published as National Statistics, and any results which incorporate emissions trading figures should therefore not be treated as National Statistics.

Under the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol, three flexible mechanisms were established to provide for trading of national allowances and project-based credits by Governments and emitters. These are International Emissions Trading, the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) and Joint Implementation (JI). International Emissions Trading allows Government-to-Government trading of Assigned Amount Units (AAUs) between developed (Annex I) countries. The CDM allows Annex I countries with a target under the Kyoto Protocol to fund carbon reduction projects in developing (non-Annex I) countries and earn carbon credits for the avoided emissions. JI allows Annex I countries to implement emissions reduction projects in other Annex I countries, generating carbon credits which can be used for compliance with targets by the investor country.

In reporting emissions reductions against all of its targets, the UK is able to take account of emissions trading through these flexible mechanisms.  At the present time, the scope of the UK’s emissions trading does not extend beyond the  European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), although it should be noted that EU ETS participants may also use credits generated under CDM and JI projects, subject to certain limits, in order to comply with their obligations.

However, the Government will be able to include any units or credits generated through any of the Kyoto Protocol’s flexible mechanisms in its future assessment of the UK’s progress towards its emissions reduction targets.

The EU ETS operates as a cap and trade system, which means that any installation within the System in the EU is given an allocation of emissions allowances each year.  If the installation’s actual emissions are above this initial allocation for the year in question, then the installation must either purchase allowances through the System, or bring forward some allowances from the following year’s allocation, so as to cover the deficit.  Conversely, installations with a surplus of emissions compared with their cap are allowed to either sell allowances or carry them over into the following year’s allocation, thus providing a financial incentive to reduce emissions.  As there is a finite limit of allowances in the System (i.e. the cap), any allowances purchased should come from installations which have reduced emissions.

The System is now in the third year of Phase II, covering the five year period 2008-2012.  Final results are currently available for each year of Phase I, which covered the three year period 2005-2007, and also 2008.

Overall, the UK has been a net acquirer of allowances in all years for which results are currently available. This effectively means that installations between them either purchased or brought forward more emissions allowances than they sold or carried over.  Taking emissions trading into account within the context of the UK’s reported emissions, this will affect the results by reducing the level of emissions by the amount of EU ETS allowances acquired in the year.

It should be noted that at the end of Phase I, the UK Government sold a small number of unallocated allowances from the new entrant reserve on the open market. Since it would not have been appropriate to incorporate these sales in the 2007 results alone, they were spread equally over each of the three years in Phase I.

In September 2009, DECC published a report summarising the 2008 EU ETS results.  Further details of the System can also be found at the EU ETS section of the DECC website.

It should be noted that, for the purposes of reporting for UK Carbon Budgets under the Climate Change Act, the figure for Net UK purchases/(sales) in 2008 will be slightly lower, at 19.3 MtCO2e. This is due to differences in both the coverage of the Act and the way in which the annual cap in 2008 has been calculated.

Further details of progress towards the UK carbon budgets will be included in the annual statement of emissions, required under section 16 of the Climate Change Act. In respect of 2008, this must be laid before Parliament no later than 31st March 2010.

The statement will provide a clear and thorough explanation of how the “net UK carbon account” – which is what we use to determine compliance with the carbon budgets – was calculated, and what it amounts to. It will contain details of UK emissions and removals on a carbon budgets (i.e. UK-only) basis, and the details of where carbon units have been used, in accordance with the methodologies contained in the Carbon Accounting Regulations 2009 and Carbon Accounting (Amendment) Regulations 2009.

UK performance against emissions reduction targets

Performance measured against targets, incorporating the net EU ETS trading position where appropriate, can be summarised as follows:

- UK emissions of the basket of six greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol were 22.0 per cent lower in 2008 than in the base year, down from 779.9 to 608.4 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent.

- For the purposes of carbon budgets reporting, UK greenhouse gas emissions were also 22.0 per cent lower in 2008 than in the base year, down from 777.4 to 606.7 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent.

-       UK net emissions of carbon dioxide were 13.5 per cent lower in 2008 than in 1990, down from 592.8 to 512.9 million tonnes.

- Although not specifically covered by a separate target, since 1990, emissions of methane and nitrous oxide, the other two major greenhouse gases, have fallen by 53 per cent and 48 per cent respectively.   Emissions of the fluorinated compounds have fallen by 12 per cent since 1990 and by 29 per cent since 1995.

Future updates to emissions estimates

On Thursday 25th March we will be publishing a breakdown of 2008 UK emissions by end-user sector and fuel type, to supplement the source sector breakdown published today.

On the same date we will also be publishing provisional estimates of UK greenhouse gas emissions for 2009 as National Statistics.  This will coincide with the publication of Energy Trends, which will include the first estimates of 2009 UK energy consumption.

Further information on climate change statistics, including Excel downloads of all the data used to compile this statistical release, can be found on the DECC website at:
http://www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/statistics/climate_change/gg_emissions/uk_emissions/2008_final/2008_final.aspx

Notes to editors

1. A full set of data tables can be accessed via the Climate Change Statistics pages of the DECC website.

2. This Statistical Release and the related data tables are the first release of data from the National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory (NAEI) for 1970-2008, produced for DECC and the Devolved Administrations by AEA. Additional results will be released as they become available, including a full report published later in the year.  For further information on the UK Greenhouse Gas Inventory, see the NAEI web site.

3. Further information about the Kyoto Protocol can be found on the UNFCCC’s website.

4. Results from the EU ETS are not currently published as National Statistics.  They have therefore not been incorporated in the headline results.

5. There are uncertainties associated with all estimates of greenhouse gas emissions. However, although for any given year considerable uncertainties may surround the emissions estimates for a pollutant, it is important to note that trends over time are likely to be much more reliable.  For more information on these uncertainties see the page on “How UK emissions of greenhouse gases are measured” on the DECC website.

6. Under the Climate Change Act, the first Annual Statement of Emissions for 2008 must be laid before Parliament and published no later than 31st March 2010.  This will give details of the net UK carbon account for 2008, which is used to determine compliance with the targets and budgets under the Act.

7. The climate change indicator, and the additional aviation and shipping indicator, are two of the 68 indicators supporting the Government’s Sustainable Development Strategy.

8. Similar results for non-greenhouse gas atmospheric pollutants, covering the period 1970-2008, are due to be published in February 2010.

9. The Department of Energy and Climate Change is central to the UK Government’s leadership on climate change.  We are pushing hard internationally for ambitious effective and fair action to avert the most dangerous impacts.  Through our UK Low Carbon Transition Plan we are giving householders and businesses the incentives and advice they need to cut their emissions, we are enabling the energy sector’s shift to the trinity of renewables, new nuclear and clean coal, and we are stepping up the fight against fuel poverty.

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