UK carbon emissions on the rise

Britain's carbon emissions rose by 1.25 % in 2006, according to provisional Government data - mainly due to a switch from gas to coal in electricity generation.

British householders and businesses were responsible for 560.6m tonnes of carbon dioxide emitted in 2006, 5.25 % lower than the 1990 level but rising above 2005 levels after a year of high gas prices prompted some power generators to switch to coal.

Carbon dioxide represents 84% of the UK’s total greenhouse gas emissions, which also rose by 0.5 % to 658.1m tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent in 2006, according to the figures published on Thursday.

While the UK remains on target for its commitments under Kyoto, news of the increase prompted calls for more action from environmental groups but also, more surprisingly, from environment secretary David Miliband who said the figures showed a need for a “concerted effort to tackle climate change, both from Government and wider society, is absolutely critical.”

“Any increase in carbon dioxide emissions is worrying, even though these figures do not include the effect of emissions trading,” he said.

The Kyoto protocol requires Britain to cut emissions of the six greenhouse gases covered by the protocol by 12.5 % relative to 1990 levels by 2008-2012.

The environment secretary said Britain is “still on track to almost double our Kyoto commitment, with an estimated 23.6% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions on 1990 levels by 2010.”

Britain’s own target of cutting carbon emissions by 20% on 1990 levels by 2010 may prove more difficult to meet, and Government is now looking at setting itself longer-term binding goals.

Under the Climate Change Bill, still in draft form, Britain would set itself a binding goal of cutting carbon by 60% by 2050, with an intermediary target of reducing emissions by 26 and 32% over the 2018-2022 period.

Friends of the Earth director Tony Juniper called for the climate bill to include annual targets to measure progress towards longer-term goals.

“These pathetic figures highlight the need for tougher action to tackle climate change. Government proposals for a new climate change law must include annual targets for cutting carbon dioxide emissions by at least three per cent each year.”

“This would force successive governments to put climate change at the core of all their policies and ensure that the UK move towards a low carbon economy,” he said.

Goska Romanowicz

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