Transport drives into pole position as top source of British greenhouse gas emissions – but UK still meets carbon target

New data from BEIS shows that transport sector emits the greatest amount of greenhouse gases in the UK. Cows take up the rear 10% of emissions.
New data from BEIS shows that transport sector emits the greatest amount of greenhouse gases in the UK. Cows take up the rear 10% of emissions.

The latest official Brit-Govt. figures show that the UK is on track to meet the second carbon budget, with annual 2013-2016 emissions that are each below the annual average emissions level of the budget period (556.4 MtCO2e).

UK emissions in 2016 were 41 per cent below the 1990 base year.

But the data also shows that the transport sector now exceeds electricity generation for emissions – while the overall reduction was caused achieved simply as a by-product of closing down large sections of the British steel industry.

In 2016, UK emissions of the basket of seven greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol1 were estimated to be 467.9 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e), a decrease of 5.0 per cent compared to the 2015 figure of 492.4 million tonnes.

This decrease in emissions was mainly caused by:

  • Reductions in the energy supply sector, down 16.8 per cent (24.2 MtCO2e) driven by a large decrease in power station emissions due to a change in the fuel mix for electricity generation, with less use of coal (from the conversion of a unit at the Drax plant from coal to biomass and the closure of some plants) and increased use of gas.
  • And a decrease of 5.4 per cent (4.6 MtCO2e) in the business sector – driven by a reduction in emissions from fuel used in the iron and steel sector due to the closure of one of the UK’s three integrated steelworks in September 2015.

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most dominant greenhouse gas from the Kyoto “basket” of greenhouse gases, accounting for 81 per cent of total UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2016.

The latest figures show that UK net 2016 CO2 emissions were estimated to be 378.9 million tonnes (Mt), which was around 5.9 per cent lower than the 2015 figure of 402.5 Mt. This decrease in CO2 emissions was mainly due to the large decrease in the use of coal for electricity generation (as described above).

7 Feb 2018

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