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Emissions

There are three key official measures of UK greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. In 2018, the latest year that all three measures are available, territorial emissions were 468 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2e), residence emissions 569 Mt CO2e and footprint emissions 703 Mt CO2e.

Source: Office for National StatisticsDepartment for Business, Energy & Industrial StrategyDepartment for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs

  1. Territorial estimates are published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), are used to monitor net zero and other UK-wide targets. These estimates include emissions produced within the UK’s geographical borders.

  2. Residence estimates cover emissions by UK residents and UK-registered businesses, whether they happen in the UK or overseas.The Office for National Statistics produces these as part of the UK’s Environmental Accounts. These estimates provide additional useful information to complement the UK’s national accounts.

  3. Carbon footprint estimates account for emissions through the supply chain of all goods and services consumed in the UK wherever they are produced in the world, so allow for emissions from UK imports but exclude emissions arising from UK produced goods that are exported. This measure, published by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), helps to understand the UK’s global contribution to climate change.

  4. Carbon footprint estimates are classified as Experimental Statistics and are subject to uncertainty. The methodology used to produce them is subject to ongoing review and refinement.

  5. ONS Environmental Accounts air emissions bridging tables provide further detail of the relationship between the different estimates of emissions provided in this figure.

GHG emissions are measured in million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, or Mt CO2e – a measure covering the seven main greenhouse gases which weights each gas based on its potential to cause global warming. As carbon dioxide (CO2) accounts for the majority of GHG emissions (81% on average over the years 2016 to 2021), changes in CO2 tend to be reflected in changes in GHG emissions overall.

Source: Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy

  1. Territorial estimates are published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), are used to monitor net zero and other UK-wide targets. These estimates include emissions produced within the UK’s geographical borders. Provisonal estimates for 2021 do not give a split by green house gas.

  2. In accordance with international reporting protocols, each of these gases are weighted by their global warming potential (GWP), so that total greenhouse gas emissions can be reported on a consistent basis (in CO2 equivalent units).

The overall reductions in GHG emissions seen from 1990 to 2020 were driven largely by a switch from using coal and heavy-emitting fuels in the energy supply and manufacturing industries to lower emission fuels such as natural gas and, more recently, renewable sources.

Household emissions (from heating homes and travelling, for commuting, social, domestic or leisure purposes) have been the largest contributor since 2015 as the emissions from energy supply decreased.

The 2020 figures enable us to look at the impacts of the early part of the coronavirus pandemic - the transport and storage industry recorded the biggest proportional fall in emissions across industries, down 40% from 2019 to 2020, compared with a 9% fall in the previous year.

Source: Office for National Statistics

  1. Greenhouse gas emissions estimates are provided here on a UK residence basis. These cover emissions by UK residents and UK-registered businesses, whether they happen in the UK or overseas. A key use of this measure is that it enables fair comparison of emissions by sector of UK industry and households, as well as allowing comparison with key economic indicators including gross domestic product (GDP) and Gross Value Added (GVA).

  2. Industry aggregations are based on the UK Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) 2007. ‘Households’ here includes the headings “consumer expenditure” and “activities of households as employers; undifferentiated goods and services – producing activities of households for own use” (for example, employing a cleaner and growing vegetables for your own consumption). The electricity, gas, steam and air conditioning supply sector is referred to as the energy supply sector. The transport and storage sector is referred to as the transport sector.

  3. For more information that explains the differences between estimates of emissions on a residence and territorial basis see ONS Environmental Accounts bridging tables.

In 2020, the industries contributing the most greenhouse gas emissions were similar to previous years: energy supply, manufacturing and transport and storage. These three industries and households together accounted for 70% of emissions in 2020.

Source: Office for National Statistics

  1. Greenhouse gas emissions estimates are provided here on a UK residence basis. These cover emissions by UK residents and UK-registered businesses, whether they happen in the UK or overseas. A key use of this measure is that it enables fair comparison of emissions by sector of UK industry and households, as well as allowing comparison with key economic indicators including gross domestic product (GDP) and Gross Value Added (GVA).

  2. For more information that explains the differences between estimates of emissions on a residence and territorial basis see ONS Environmental Accounts bridging tables.

A geographical disaggregation of CO2 emissions, the main contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, by local authority (LA) and region are produced annually as part of the UK’s territorial estimates. These local estimates are produced in order to provide a nationally consistent evidence base and can be used by (LAs) and other organisations as an important body of information to help identify high emitting sources of CO2 and energy intensive sectors, to monitor changes in CO2 emissions over time, and to help design carbon reduction strategies.

Source: Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy

  1. Territorial estimates are published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), are used to monitor net zero and other UK-wide targets. These estimates include emissions produced within the UK’s geographical borders.

Examining emissions of CO2 per capita allows comparison between areas of different population size. Wales, Northern Ireland, and Yorkshire and the Humber have the highest annual emissions per capita. This is mainly due to higher emissions per capita from the industrial sector reflecting the industrial base present in these regions, except for Northern Ireland where per capita emissions from the domestic sector are also higher than the UK average. London has the lowest per capita emissions, as the urban nature of the transport system and the high population density results in lower emissions than the UK average when total emissions, including non-domestic emissions, are spread across residents. Additionally, in London there are a greater proportion of residential areas which means that large industrial facilities are unlikely to be located there, which contributes to the low per capita emissions.

Source: Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy

  1. Territorial estimates are published by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), are used to monitor net zero and other UK-wide targets. These estimates include emissions produced within the UK’s geographical borders.

  2. While total CO2 emissions per capita may be a useful measure for considering the impact of resident population size on domestic emissions, please note that emissions from industry and transport are driven by many factors other than resident population. Therefore, estimates of total CO2 emissions per capita should be interpreted with caution.

The combustion of fuel releases both energy and carbon dioxide. The amount of CO2 released by the production of one unit of power depends on the type of fuel that is burned. More CO2 emissions result from burning coal than from burning of gas to generate one KWHr of energy.

Over the period 1990 to 2021, GHG emissions from fossil fuels decreased by 43%. This relatively large decrease in emissions can be attributed to a large decrease in the use of coal accompanied by an increase in the use of gas. GHG emissions from gas as a proportion of all GHG emissions from fossil fuels has increased from 26% in 1990 to 55% in 2021, whilst emissions from coal as a proportion of all fossil fuel emissions has decreased from 39% to 3% over the same period. Oil was responsible for 35% of emissions from fossil fuels in 1990 increased to 43% in 2019, but then decreaced slightly to 41% in 2021.

Source: Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy

  1. Fossil fuels here include coal, gaseous fuels and petroleum.

  2. The GHGs considered from fossil fuels in these estimates are carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (NO2).