Black mark: Britain's shame as carbon emissions climb

Power generators' switch from gas to coal sees 2.4-per-cent jump in 'carbon intensity'

Environment Editor

A A A

Britain's carbon emissions climbed by more than almost any other major economy last year, relative to its economic output, as power generators switched from gas to coal to take advantage of falling prices.

The amount of CO2 emitted per £1 of economic output - known as its carbon intensity - jumped by 2.4 per cent in 2012. This compared to a 2.7 per cent average decrease among the G7 leading economies and a 0.8 per cent drop worldwide.

Among the 20 biggest economies, only India and Japan saw a larger rise in carbon intensity - of 3.9 per cent and 4.9 per cent, respectively - while the US dropped by 5.9 per cent and Australia by 5.3 per cent, according to a new report from PwC, the consultancy.

Britain's rising emissions were largely down increasing coal use, as the US shale gas boom forced American mining companies to flood the European market with coal they can no longer sell at home.

However, despite the increase, the UK is still the second most energy efficient economy in the so-called G20 last year, behind Italy - reflecting, in part, its lack of heavy industry.

Britain's rising carbon intensity last year prompted a 2.6 per cent rise total carbon emissions as the economy grew by 0.3 per cent.

Elsewhere, the report warned that the world is hurtling towards the point at which a 2C increase in the temperature becomes all but impossible to avoid. This is the level at which the consequences of climate change become increasingly catastrophic.

"G20 countries are still consuming fossil fuels like there's no tomorrow. Despite rapid growth in renewables, they still remain a small part of the energy mix and are overwhelmed by the increase in the use of coal," said Jonathan Grant, PwC's director of sustainability and change.

"Something's got to give, and potentially soon. This has implications for a raft of investments in carbon intensive technologies that are currently being planned and executed today," he added.

The world is on track to burn within 21 years the maximum amount of fossil fuels that can be consumed if the world is to have a reasonable chance of staying within 2C global warming, according to PwC.

Based on the current rate of emissions reductions and economic growth predictions, the so-called carbon budget will have been used up by 2034.

The report finds that global carbon intensity needs to reduce by 6 per cent every year to the end of the century - a level that has never been achieved in a single year before and which compares to the recent level of 0.7 per cent.

"The results raise real questions about the viability of our vast fossil fuel reserves, and the way we power our economy. The 2 degrees carbon budget is simply not big enough to cope with the unmitigated exploitation of these reserves," Mr Grant said.

The report identified progress in becoming more energy efficient as "one bright spot" in its analysis.

Some 92 per cent of the small reduction in carbon intensity achieved last year is down to improvements in energy efficiency, with the remaining 8 per cent due to a shift towards cleaner energy. But the report warns there is a limit to which we can cut energy use per unit of GDP.

The report points out that the shale gas, or fracking, revolution in the US has helped lower emissions in the country as power producers switch from coal to cheaper gas. However, it says that this has merely increased coal usage elsewhere - for example in the EU and UK - "raising concerns that decarbonisation in one country can just shift emissions elsewhere".

News
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.
peopleThe idea has been greeted enthusiastically by the party's MPs
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Arts and Entertainment
Avatar grossed $2.8bn at the box office after its release in 2009
filmJames Cameron is excited
Voices
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012
voicesAnd nobody from Ukip said babies born to migrants should be classed as migrants, says Nigel Farage
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stik on the crane as he completed the mural
art
News
Happy in his hat: Pharrell Williams
people
Arts and Entertainment
Stella Gibson is getting closer to catching her killer
tvReview: It's gripping edge-of-the-seat drama, so a curveball can be forgiven at such a late stage
News
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured in 2011
peopleFans had feared the worst when it was announced the Brazil legand was in a 'special care' unit
News
i100(More than you think)
Sport
Brendan Rodgers seems more stressed than ever before as Liverpool manager
FOOTBALLI like Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
News
The number of GP practices with 10 or more doctors has grown by 75 per cent
science
News
Phyllis Dorothy James on stage during a reading of her book 'Death Comes to Pemberley' last year
peopleJohn Walsh pays tribute to PD James, who died today
Sport
Benjamin Stambouli celebrates his goal for Tottenham last night
FOOTBALL
Life and Style
Dishing it out: the head chef in ‘Ratatouille’
food + drinkShould UK restaurants follow suit?
News
peopleExclusive: Maryum and Hana Ali share their stories of the family man behind the boxing gloves
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Austen Lloyd: Commercial / Residential Property - Surrey

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Programme - Online Location Services Business

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: What do you want to do with your career? Do yo...

Recruitment Genius: Senior QC Scientist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company is a leading expert in immunoassa...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game