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UK climate change sustainable development indicator: 2007 greenhouse gas emissions, final figures

UK climate change sustainable development indicator: 2007 greenhouse gas emissions, final figures

DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY AND CLIMATE CHANGE News Release issued by COI News Distribution Service. 3 February 2009

DECC today publishes final 2007 estimates of UK greenhouse gas emissions.

Greenhouse gas emissions - headline results

* In 2007, UK emissions of the basket of six greenhouse gases(1) covered by the Kyoto Protocol were estimated to be 636.6 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent(2). This was 1.7 per cent lower than the 2006 figure of 647.9 million tonnes.

* Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the main greenhouse gas, accounting for about 85 per cent of total UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2007. In 2007, UK net emissions of carbon dioxide(3) were estimated to be 542.6 million tonnes (Mt). This was around 1.5 per cent lower than the 2006 figure of 551.1 (Mt). There were decreases in emissions of 1.8 per cent (4.0 Mt) from the energy supply sector, 4.6 per cent (3.8 Mt) from the residential sector, and 2.6 per cent (2.4 Mt) from the business sector. There were, however, increases in emissions from some other sectors, including 1.0 per cent (1.3 Mt) from the transport sector and 9.5 per cent (1.2 Mt) from industrial processes. These sectors define the source of the emissions, as opposed to where the end-use occurred.

These results are shown in Table 1 and Figure 1 below. The complete time series since 1990 can be found in Annex A.

Table 1: Emissions of greenhouse gases

                                  2006    2007   Change
      Total greenhouse gas emissions(1) 647.9   636.6  -1.7%
      Net CO2 emissions(2)              551.1   542.6  -1.5% 

Emissions are in million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent.
CO2 emissions figures are for the UK and Crown Dependencies; Greenhouse gas emissions figures also include some Overseas Territories.

Figure 1: Emissions of greenhouse gases, 1990 - 2007

See Word Document.

Coverage of emissions reporting

Reporting of greenhouse gas emissions under the Kyoto Protocol is based on emissions in the UK, and those Crown Dependencies (Jersey, Guernsey, and the Isle of Man), and Overseas Territories (Bermuda, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar and Montserrat) that are party to the UK ratification of the Kyoto Protocol.

Reporting of CO2 emissions for the UK only incorporates Crown Dependencies, but excludes Overseas Territories.

Carbon dioxide is reported as total emissions minus total removals of CO2 from the atmosphere by carbon sinks(4). Carbon sinks are incorporated within the Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry (LULUCF) sector, which covers afforestation, reforestation, deforestation and forest management. The Kyoto Protocol 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.

A more detailed summary of the coverage and breakdown can be found in Annex B.

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 - the latest Inventory represents a single consistent data series going back to 1990.

In preparing the 2007 Inventory, the most notable changes to the historical series since the 2006 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 data being incorporated in the inventory series for 2005 and 2006 in respect of fossil fuels use by power stations, autogenerators and refineries. Changes to the methodology used for calculating offshore oil and gas use have also resulted in changes to the series for "emissions from manufacture of solid fuels and other energy industries". For the methane series, the most significant changes have been in respect of livestock manure management, again related to the emissions factors, and landfill methane, for which new data has been incorporated from 1998 onwards. For the nitrous oxide series, the only significant changes have resulted from updates to the emissions factors for road transport.

All the revisions to the inventory have resulted in revisions to the 2006 figures. The total of all UK greenhouse gas emissions has been revised downwards from 652.3 to 647.9 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent. The figure for UK CO2 emissions has also been revised downwards, from 554.5 to 551.1 million tonnes. Comparing the 2007 figures with the 2006 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 2007 UK greenhouse gas and carbon dioxide emissions were published in March 2008, based on early estimates of energy consumption for the year.

At that time, it was provisionally estimated that total UK greenhouse gas emissions in 2007 would be 639.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, which represented a decrease of 2 per cent from the 2006 figure. The final 2007 figure of 636.6 million tonnes is around 1/2 per cent lower than the provisional estimate, and actually represents a decrease from 2006 to 2007 of around 13/4 per cent.

It was also provisionally estimated that net UK carbon dioxide emissions would be 543.7 million tonnes, representing a decrease of 2 per cent from the 2006 figure. The final 2007 figure of 542.6 million tonnes is fairly close to the provisional estimate, and represents a decrease from 2006 to 2007 of around 11/2 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 goals

The UK has a number of goals, 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 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.

Domestic CO2 goal.

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

UK Climate Change Act.

This Act has now set legally binding targets for the UK to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by at least 80 per cent by 2050, and carbon dioxide emissions by at least 26 per cent by 2020, both set against a 1990 baseline. It also requires the Government to set five year carbon budgets, in order to set out a trajectory for emissions reductions to 2050. The first three budgets will cover the periods 2008-12, 2013-17 and 2018-2022, and must be set by 1st June 2009.

Emissions Trading

European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) results are not published as National Statistics, and any results which incorporate EU ETS figures should therefore not be treated as National Statistics.

In reporting emissions reductions against all of these targets, the UK is able to take account of emissions trading through the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS). The Scheme has now entered Phase II, covering the five year period 2008-2012. Final results are now available for each year of Phase I, which covered the three year period 2005-2007.

The EU ETS operates as a cap and trade scheme, which means that any installation within the Scheme 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 Scheme, 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 Scheme (i.e. the cap), any allowances purchased should come from installations which have reduced emissions.

Overall, in each one of the three years in Phase I, the UK was a net acquirer of allowances. This effectively means that installations between them either purchased or brought forward more emissions allowances than they sold or carried over. Taking this 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. This has therefore resulted in a revision to the EU ETS results published previously for 2005 and 2006.

A report summarising the results from Phase I is due to be published in February 2009. Further details of the Scheme can also be found at the EU ETS section of the Defra website.

The Government will also include any units or credits generated through the Kyoto Protocol's flexible mechanisms in its future assessment of the UK's progress towards its emissions reduction goals.

UK performance against emissions reduction goals

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

* UK emissions of the basket of six greenhouse gases covered by the Kyoto Protocol were 21.7 per cent lower in 2007 than in the base year, down from 779.9 to 611.0 million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent.

* UK net emissions of carbon dioxide were 12.8 per cent lower in 2007 than in 1990, down from 592.9 to 516.9 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 47 per cent respectively. Emissions of the fluorinated compounds have fallen by 23 per cent since 1990 and by 39 per cent since 1995.

These results are shown in the context of the headline results in Table 2 and Figure 2 below. A more detailed summary of the results can also be found in Annex C.

Table 2: Performance against emissions reduction goals

                                    Base year          2007
                                                     Emissions Change from
                                                               base year
      All greenhouse  No allowance for    779.9      636.6     -18.4%
      gases           trading
                      With allowance for  779.9      611.0     -21.7%
      CO2 only        No allowance for    592.9      542.6     -8.5%
                      With allowance for  592.9      516.9     -12.8%

Emissions are in million tonnes carbon dioxide equivalent

Figure 2: Performance against targets, incorporating net effect of EU ETS emissions trading

a) Carbon dioxide, UK only

b) Greenhouse gas emissions, Kyoto total

Carbon dioxide

Carbon dioxide is the main man-made contributor to global warming. The UK contributes about 2 per cent to global man-made emissions, which, according to the IPCC, were estimated to be 38 billion tonnes carbon dioxide in 2004. Carbon dioxide accounted for about 85 per cent of the UK's man-made greenhouse gas emissions in 2007.

In 2007, 40 per cent of carbon dioxide emissions were from the energy supply sector, 22 per cent from road transport, 16 per cent from business and 14 per cent from residential fossil fuel use. Since 1990, emissions from road transport have increased by 11 per cent, while emissions from the energy supply industry have reduced by 11 per cent and business emissions have reduced by 19 per cent.

Since 2006, emissions from road transport have risen by 1 per cent, whilst emissions from energy supply, business and residential fossil fuel use have fallen by 2, 3 and 5 per cent respectively.


Weighted by global warming potential, methane accounted for about 8 per cent of the UK's greenhouse gas emissions in 2007.

Methane emissions, excluding those from natural sources, were 53 per cent below 1990 levels. In 2007, 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 17 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 2007.

Nitrous oxide emissions fell by 47 per cent between 1990 and 2007. The largest reductions were in emissions from adipic acid production between 1998 and 1999 which is seen reflected in the reduction of total industrial processes between 1998 and 1999. This leaves agriculture as the main source, accounting for over two thirds of emissions, mainly from agricultural soils.

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).

Between 2006 and 2007, emissions from international aviation fuel use decreased by 1.9 per cent, although between 1990 and 2007 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 2006 and 2007, CO2 emissions from domestic aviation also decreased, by 6.6 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.

Between 1990 and 1998 emissions from UK shipping bunkers increased by around a third. Since 1998 there has been a decrease of 23 per cent in emissions from UK shipping bunkers, although there was a 1.5 per cent increase from 2006 to 2007. However, UK operators purchase most of their fuel outside the UK.

Under the guidelines agreed for UNFCCC, reporting emissions from international aviation and shipping are not included in the UK's emissions total, but these estimates 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).

Future updates to emissions estimates

Provisional estimates of UK greenhouse gas emissions for 2008 will be published as National Statistics towards the end of March 2009. This will coincide with the publication of Energy Trends, which will include the first estimates of 2008 UK energy consumption.

Further Information

Further information on climate change, include Excel downloads of all the data used to compile this statistical release, is available at:

Explanatory notes

(1) The basket of greenhouse gases consists of carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulphur hexafluoride, all of which are weighted by global warming potential (GWP). The GWP for each gas is defined as its warming influence relative to that of carbon dioxide.

(2) Emissions are presented as carbon dioxide equivalent, in line with international reporting and carbon trading protocols.

(3) Carbon dioxide emissions include both emissions and removals from Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry.

(4) Carbon sinks are defined by the UNFCCC as "any process, activity or mechanism which removes a greenhouse gas, an aerosol or a precursor of a greenhouse gas from the atmosphere".

Notes for Editors

1. Due to the ongoing development of the Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) website, under interim arrangements currently in place the full results are accessible via the Defra website.

2. This Statistical Release and the related tables on the Defra web site are the first release of data from the National Atmospheric Emissions Inventory (NAEI) for 1970-2007, produced for DECC and the Devolved Administrations by AEA. Additional results will be released as they become available, including a full report published towards the end of the year. For further information on the UK Greenhouse Gas Inventory, see the NAEI web site.

3. Similar results for non-greenhouse gas atmospheric pollutants, covering the period 1970-2007, are due to be published in March 2009.

4. Provisional estimates of total greenhouse gas and carbon dioxide emissions in 2008 will be published on Thursday 26th March 2009. A breakdown of the 2007 results by end-user sector will also be published at this time.

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

6. 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 Defra website at

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

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