Greenhouse gas emissions reducing, but carbon dioxide levels disappoint

UK greenhouse gas emissions are continuing to decline, but emissions of carbon dioxide - the main greenhouse gas - have increased for the second year in succession. So says a new report by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

Although the results show a general continuation of a downward trend in greenhouse gases, emissions of carbon dioxide increased by about 1.5% between 2000 and 2001. This increase is for the second year in succession, says DEFRA.

The rise in carbon dioxide emissions between 2000 and 2001 is attributed mainly to increased use of coal in power stations because of higher gas prices at the end of 2000 and during 2001.

Under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, the UK pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2000. To meet its commitment to the Kyoto Protocol the UK has agreed to reduce emissions by 12.5% of the 1990 level over the period of 2008 – 2012.

The UK aims to move beyond its Kyoto target, to a goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by 20% by 2010. However the rise in carbon dioxide emissions for the second year in a row may lead some to suggest that the Government’s target could be in jeopardy.

However, a DEFRA spokesperson dismissed this suggestion, explaining to edie, “We have set challenging targets and we believe we can achieve this…The emissions trading scheme is going to contribute more than a 5% reduction to our target of 2010”. The DEFRA spokesperson also noted that climate change levy agreements are another policy designed to act as an incentive for companies to reduce their emissions.

Overall DEFRA released encouraging results for reduced emissions of greenhouse gases. Emissions of the ‘basket’ of six greenhouse gases, (carbon dioxide, methane, sulphur hexafluoride, nitrous oxide, hydroflurocarbons (HFC’s) and perfluorocarbons), weighted by global warming potential, fell by 13.2% between the 1990 base year and 2000. There was no change between 1999 and 2000.

Between 1990 and 2000, overall emissions of carbon dioxide fell by 7.5%. Emissions of carbon dioxide for 2001 are provisionally estimated at 154 million tonnes (carbon equivalent). This is 6% lower than in 1990 and consistent with the general downward trend in emissions shown in the Climate Change Programme.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie